The good news: Younghoe Koo signed a multi-year contract this offseason, keeping one of the best kickers in football with Atlanta for the forseeable future, and Avery Williams appears to be pushing for a long-term role as the team’s kick and punt returner. The bad news: The Falcons aren’t at all settled at punter, and long snapper may be a question mark as well.
Last week, we took an early at the interesting defense the Falcons are building and the extremely incomplete offense, both with the caveat that the draft is fast approaching and changes are coming. The same may well be true for special teams, where Atlanta may wind up drafting a punter for the second time in three seasons, and where nobody except Younghoe Koo is truly locked into a job.
Let’s review what the team has in place today.
Kicker: Younghoe Koo
For the past two full seasons, Koo has been lights out as the team’s kicker, and he was third in the NFL in field goal percentage and tied for first in extra point percentage in 2021. He’s now locked in to a multi-year deal and the Falcons will continue to roll forward with a player who will still be just 28 years old in August. Even if Atlanta’s offense sputters out inside the 30 regularly, Koo will give them a fighting chance at points.
Punter: Dom Maggio, maybe
I love this bit of trivia, as you know: Maggio was the first free agent the Falcons signed when Terry Fontenot took over as general manager. He didn’t wind up getting a shot to be the team’s punter, as that job cycled through several other veterans, but he’ll at least be competing with someone this summer. Maggio has a strong leg and was a productive punter at Wake Forest and he’s stuck around all this time, so it’s probably wise not to count him out just yet. Obviously, we don’t know how he’s going to fare if he does get the job, because he has yet to punt in an NFL regular season game.
Long snapper: Beau Brinkley
It’s hard to replace Josh Harris, but the Falcons are hopeful Brinkley will do just fine. The Titans’ long snapper for the better part of a decade, Brinkley had a couple of costly miscues in his final season with Tennessee and was cut, and he’s been bouncing around the NFL ever since. Atlanta’s banking on his track record from 2012-2020 being a better indicator of his ability than a couple of midseason mistakes, but Brinkley will probably go into the year as the heir apparent for Harris unless he has the yips in training camp.
Kick & punt returner: Avery Williams
Obviously, Cordarrelle Patterson may factor in on kick returns, but chances are the Falcons will want to keep him as fresh as possible for a large role on offense. That should leave Williams, who locked down both roles late in the year, to once again assume both roles in 2022.
I thought he was solid last year, but his standout college career as a returner suggests he can do a lot more in the NFL with more time and experience under his belt. I’d look for Williams to enjoy better success this season, if only because I’m a huge believer in his talent.
Atlanta’s going to acquire a punter to at least compete with Maggio, and they’ve been steadily adding players like KhaDarel Hodge and Mike Ford who have extensive special teams experience, particularly at gunner. It’s tough to say goodbye to Thomas Morstead and especially Josh Harris after they were so great a year ago, but there’s plenty of time for the Falcons to assemble a great special teams unit and Koo will be the foundation of that regardless.
Now the only question is whether the team is going to draft a punter, which I fully expect will lead to some spirited debate here.