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 special teams. Unchanged for nearly a decade, the group has undergone significant turnover in recent years. Kicker Younghoe Koo is the only returning starter, while long snapper and punter will be manned by new faces in 2022.
Next up, veteran punter Bradley Pinion.
P Bradley Pinion
Contract: $1.48M cap hit in 2022, free agent in 2023
Career Production: 111 games played | 502 punts, 21,927 yards (43.7 average), 1 blocked punt | 530 kickoffs, 34,226 yards (64.6 average), 78.9% touchback rate | 6 special teams tackles (5 solo), 0% MTR
2021 Production: 15 games played | 56 punts, 2,378 yards (42.5 average), 24 punts inside 20, 37.5% return rate, 7.7 yards per return, 63.9 punting PFF grade | 89 kickoffs, 5,756 yards (64.7 average), 79.8% touchback rate, 81.1 kickoff PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 5th Round (165th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers (2015-2018), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019-2021), Atlanta Falcons (2022)
RAS: N/A | 6’5, 229
The Falcons have had a bit of a revolving door at punter after nearly a decade of stability with Matt Bosher. After Bosher’s exit in 2019, the team has struggled to find a consistent contributor. 2020 seventh-rounder Sterling Hofrichter wound up cut after his rookie year, and the team cycled through UDFA Cameron Nizialek and veteran Dustin Colquitt before landing on Thomas Morstead midway through the 2021 season. Morstead was terrific in his 7-game stretch with the team, but Atlanta was clearly looking to get younger at the position this offseason. The Falcons brought in intriguing UDFA Seth Vernon before signing veteran Bradley Pinion a few weeks back.
Pinion was waived by the Bucs after a down year plagued by injuries—and Tampa Bay just drafted a punter in the fourth round—but has generally been an above-average punter throughout his NFL career. In fact, his 2020 season was arguably one of his best, with a stellar 45.2 yards per punt average. 2021 saw Pinion post the worst punting average of his career (42.5), but he still turned in a roughly average season (63.9 PFF grade) and was T-16th for punts inside the 20 with 24.
Where Pinion has truly excelled is on kickoffs, where he’s consistently been one of the NFL’s best. Over the past three seasons in Tampa Bay, Pinion averaged an elite 85.3% touchback rate—with a career-high 90.7% mark coming in 2019. He remained very good in this area last season despite his injury, with a 79.8% mark in 2021. With kicker Younghoe Koo’s weakness in this area, Pinion would appear to be an ideal complement. It’s worth noting that both Koo and Pinion will be 28 during the 2022 season, so this could be a potential long-term pairing a la Matt Bryant/Matt Bosher if all goes well.
Projection: Bradley Pinion brings proven punting ability and outstanding kickoff acumen to the Falcons. He’s the heavy favorite to win the punting competition with UDFA Seth Vernon due to his experience.