Many things have changed in a short time in Atlanta. For example, the Falcons were projected to have 4th and 5th round compensatory picks in the 2023 NFL Draft after they lost Russell Gage and Foye Oluokun to free agency, which would have given them extra draft capital ahead of what’s shaping up to be the most consequential Falcons season in some time. It’s unclear whether the Falcons will manage to be fun in 2022, but it’s even less clear they’ll be any good, whereas they have $130-plus million in cap space coming next year and time to lay the groundwork for massive upgrades to the roster.
Presumably, you’d like to have those extra picks to further bolster a team that will have a combination of a ton of space and is going to have the opportunity to add a lot of talent thanks to five selections in the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Falcons have apparently decided that those picks are not as important as the free agents they signed to help them through 2022.
Lorenzo Carter's contract is enough to qualify for compensatory free agent status.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 22, 2022
Despite only being at the 7th round, that cancels out the Falcons' 4th round 2023 compensatory pick for the departure of Foyesade Oluokun. https://t.co/MSzsUWpCdh
It’s easier to understand the Mariota signing and the Hayward signing, which also cancelled out potential comp picks, than the Carter signing. Mariota is that essential bridge quarterback for the Falcons and one they like, and Hayward is a damn good cornerback who should help stabilize the secondary these next two seasons if all goes well. You could argue that patience and adding lesser players on short-term deals would have been worthwhile, but I get the thought process here.
I like Carter, but he’s a relatively unproven pass rusher who just erased a potential 4th round selection, and the only way the team doing this makes sense is if they’re very high on him and think with their bounty of cap space they’ll want to and easily be able to re-sign him next year. Even then, you have to remember that a good 4th round pick is an affordable player you can have for at least four seasons, and Atlanta can’t and won’t stock this roster with free agency alone.
The compensatory pick formula is not easy to understand, but obviously the Falcons have to, and I’m not going to assume that a front office full of experienced and seemingly bright executives simply forgot to look at the cause and effect of their signings. I’m not holding my breath that we’ll get any insight into their thought process here, however.
I thought Charles McDonald at Underdog Fantasy summed it up well.
comp pick formula is dumb as hell but if you’re a rebuilding team, and i mean REALLY rebuilding like the falcons are, you gotta know these things. and don’t burn a 4th on lorenzo carter?— charles (FREE CALVIN RIDLEY) mcdonald (@FourVerts) March 22, 2022
I argued this morning that the long-term vision for this team and the hope they’re investing in 2023 are very much alive and well, so long as this team is smart with how they spend their money and land the all-important franchise quarterback. In the moment, however, it’s hard not to feel like the team is flailing a bit between the slapdash and possibly Arthur Blank-driven pursuit of Deshaun Watson, apparent reversal on their plans with Matt Ryan, and now the cavalier disregard for these potentially valuable draft picks.
Will the Falcons be able to get any compensatory selections now? It’s still possible they could land some when players like Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, Fabian Moreau and Tajae Sharpe land, so we’re not at the end of the story here. Those picks, if the Falcons are able to get them, are likely to come late on Day 3 of the draft instead of early, however.
As much as I like Carter and hope he thrives in Atlanta, this team’s pursuit of a brighter tomorrow shouldn’t be compromised for signings that only help them during what may very well be a lost season. That’s especially true because this regime has stressed they don’t want to make moves today that impact the future negatively. We’ll see if the Falcons end up with any picks when the dust settles, but I’m at a bit of a loss as to why the front office was willing to lose useful draft selections ahead of the most critical Falcons season in some time.