Training camp is only a few weeks away, hopefully helping the Falcons transition from this so-far disastrous offseason into something a bit more positive. Atlanta finished the 2021 season looking more like a new expansion team than a playoff contender, record notwithstanding. Terry Fontenot has made some smart decisions in light of his (partially) self-imposed cap issues, which is slowly some fans back into an optimistic outlook.
The defensive line? Depth is looking decent. The starting corners? Impressive. The wide receivers? Much improved. The offensive line? Well, things can’t get much worse.
While 2021’s roster looked desolate, 2022’s roster heading into camp looks decent. In fact, looking at the depth chart, the Falcons look to be only a few players away from some form of relevancy. The good news is that the Falcons don’t need much money to plug a few glaring roster holes.
What type of players make sense for Atlanta? We’ve looked at this a few times this offseason, but with the team promising to make additions and training camp right around the corner, it’s a good time to revisit.
First, let’s make it clear that players available ahead of training camp will have some issues. The players in the mid-20s coming off of Pro Bowl seasons are long gone. This is where teams sift through the leftover players to find value. To that point, finding value free agents for the Saints were what helped Fontenot get the job in Atlanta. I would hope Atlanta finds one or two quality contributors before the regular season kicks off.
Second, Fontenot should be looking at younger players. Adding a player guaranteed to be a one-year stop gap with limited odds of either returning or signing a big deal in 2023 (helping in Atlanta’s compensatory pick calculation), provides little use here. Atlanta is not one or two players away from a deep playoff run. It needs to look past 2022. That should mean anyone over 30 need not apply unless someone truly great shakes loose.
Third, Fontenot will certainly target players who need to rehab their value. It worked for Cordarrelle Patterson. Not so much for Mike Davis. Regardless, Fontenot can offer many players a clear route to significant playing time. The player can try to bounce back and cash in, while Atlanta can (hopefully) get a cheap contributor.
Below are potential fits for the Falcons.
Trey Flowers, EDGE
A mere three years after signing a $90 million deal, Flowers has had back-to-back injury-shortened seasons. The Lions appeared to overpay to land their guy in 2019. Flowers looks to be a well-rounded pass rusher who can get ~7 sacks per season — a rotational guy. If he doesn’t look to New England to revive his market value, Flowers could certainly start in Atlanta. So far, his market has been extremely quiet. The soon-to-be 29-year old should have plenty of juice left if his medicals check out.
Will Fuller, WR
Is there much else to know other than Fuller is really fast and pretty tall? Atlanta seems to have some interest in having a situational deep threat. Fuller, who needs a healthy, suspension-free season to cash in, could jump ahead of the likes of Damiere Byrd and compete with Olamide Zaccheaus. At the very least, Fuller, only 28, could give Atlanta a big boost in its depth chart at a cheap price.
Anthony Barr, EDGE
Barr, the former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, could hit the perfect mix of talent and value. He’s been trending the wrong way at only 30, yet remains extremely versatile on the edge. He’s no longer a Pro Bowl talent but Atlanta could use a consistent veteran presence in the defense. He’s unlikely to “bounce back” into another big contract, but Barr needs a starting spot to have a chance at a multi-year deal in 2023. Barr could provide defensive coordinator Dean Pees much more flexibility in his defensive scheme.
Kevin King, corner
The 27-year old corner was formerly a 2nd-round pick from the Green Bay Packers. He signed a one-year deal with the Packers last year, but as you see consistently for players available ahead of training camp, he dealt with injuries last season. At 6-foot-3, King has great size to go with his extensive starting experience. He would be unlikely to crack the top three spots, but could provide needed depth at corner.
Any guard, please
For its second year in a row, guard is Atlanta’s biggest weak spot. We hope that Jalen Mayfield can improve upon his rookie season, or we see someone else step up. Teams don’t let starter-worthy linemen get away often and that remains true this offseason. There are not any clear upgrades available in free agency.