Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is edge rusher. One of the weakest position groups on the roster in 2021, the Falcons have spent considerable resources reshaping it this offseason. Only 2021 fifth-rounder Adetokunbo Ogundeji returns from last year’s roster.
First up, veteran addition and presumptive top starter Lorenzo Carter.
EDGE Lorenzo Carter
Age: 26 (27 during 2022 season)
Contract: $2.5M cap hit in 2022, free agent (void year) in 2023
Career Production: 49 games played, 33 games started | 153 total tackles, 94 solo, 21.0 TFL, 14.5 sacks, 65 total pressures, 3 FF | 15 PD, 1 INT
2021 Production: 14 games played, 14 games started | 50 total tackles, 28 solo, 6.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 16 total pressures, 2 FF, 13.8% missed tackle rate | 5 PD, 1 INT | 65.3 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 3rd Round (66th overall) by the New York Giants (2018-2021), Atlanta Falcons (2022)
It’s no secret that the Falcons pass rush was abysmal in 2021. Atlanta was worst in the league in sacks, posting just 18.0 in 17 entire games. For comparison’s sake, Robert Quinn had 18.5 sacks by himself in 2021—and he wasn’t even the NFL’s top sack artist (that would be T.J. Watt with 22.5). Dante Fowler Jr. led the team in sacks with just 4.5. You get the picture. It was really bad. Atlanta knew the pass rush was in desperate need of help heading into 2022, but the salary cap was still an issue.
The Falcons weren’t in the running for any of the big-name free agents at the position. Instead, the team signed an intriguing, low-cost edge rusher with upside: Lorenzo Carter. Carter was a third-round pick of the Giants in 2018 after posting an insane 10.0 RAS score during his Combine testing (at linebacker, technically). Carter spent his entire rookie contract in New York, where he became a starter in his second season. In 2021, Carter finished on a high note with 5.0 sacks in the final 5 games.
Carter is a well-rounded and versatile edge rusher who can play a variety of roles due to his incredible athleticism. He’s never been elite in any one area, but his flexibility gives him significant value in a Dean Pees defense. Carter is a good run defender and an excellent coverage player—possibly the best coverage OLB in the NFL. He’s also been a consistently productive pass rusher, with at least 4.0 sacks and 6.0 TFL in every season he’s played more than 5 games.
Projection: Lorenzo Carter is the clear favorite to start at EDGE. He’s an experienced veteran with consistent, three-down production. Carter will have a featured role in Atlanta’s defense and will be deployed in a variety of ways under Dean Pees.