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 linebacker. The Falcons return a handful of players from last year’s squad—though the status of Deion Jones is uncertain—and also added a number of veterans and a second-round rookie in Troy Andersen.
Next up, recent veteran addition Nick Kwiatkoski.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski
Contract: $895K cap hit in 2022, free agent in 2023
Career Production: 77 games played, 34 games started | 286 total tackles, 205 solo, 17.0 TFL, 6 FF | 7.0 sacks, 12 PD, 2 INT
2021 Production: 8 games played | 21 total tackles, 13 solo, 1.0 TFL, 1 FF, 4.5% MTR | 85.7% completion rate allowed, 118.7 passer rating allowed | 59.4 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 4th Round (113th overall) by the Chicago Bears (2016-2019), Las Vegas Raiders (2020-2021), Atlanta Falcons (2022)
The Falcons appeared to be in a pretty good place at linebacker after the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta added veteran Rashaan Evans, second-round rookie Troy Andersen, and intriguing UDFA Nate Landman to the roster, and still had Deion Jones and Mykal Walker under contract. The depth chart was getting crowded quickly, with the biggest question mark being Jones’ future with the team. When Atlanta signed another veteran starter—Nick Kwiatkoski—in early May, they made their intention to trade (or perhaps even cut) Jones quite clear.
Kwiatkoski spent his rookie season with the Chicago Bears as a core rotational piece, but he would gradually lose playing time over the next two years. He started eight games for the Bears in 2019 and finally got a chance to prove himself as a viable, well-rounded starter. Kwiatkoski parlayed that strong performance into a lucrative 3-year, $21M contract with the Las Vegas Raiders and was on his way to another good year before injuries struck. He’d be limited to just eight games and 66 snaps on defense in 2021, and was released by Las Vegas in March.
Despite his recent injury struggles, Kwiatkoski has established himself as a starting-caliber NFL linebacker. His above-average athleticism and size give him the versatility to play anywhere, and his experience in the 3-4 should ease his transition into Dean Pees’ defense. Kwiatkoski could push for a starting job in training camp, particularly if Deion Jones is eventually traded or released.
Projection: Nick Kwiatkoski brings experience, athleticism, and versatility to the position. He’ll be involved in the competition for a starting spot at linebacker, but should be a core member of the rotation at worst.