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The great Falcons 2023 free agency and legal tampering roundup

Everything we’re hearing during free agency and legal tampering.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Legal tampering has passed and we’re on to free agency. The Falcons are, as you’d expect, busy.

There are plenty of intriguing rumors going around, as well as a quite a few concrete reports of Atlanta’s interest and actual signings. It will be difficult to keep track of all of it if the Falcons are as active as they’ve been early on, so why not do all of that in one place?

You’ll find rumors, reports, and more in this roundup and we’ll update it as frequently as we can.

Reported signings & trades

  • The Falcons have traded for tight end Jonnu Smith from the Patriots for a 2023 7th rounder. Smith scored 11 touchdowns and put up over 800 yards receiving over two seasons with Arthur Smith in Tennessee, and will look to recapture that magic as TE2 or TE3 in Atlanta.
  • Atlanta has locked up stellar guard Chris Lindstrom on a 5 year, $105 million mega deal with $63 million guaranteed.
  • Keith Smith is back in Atlanta, with the veteran fullback and key special teamer signing what we’re assuming to be a one-year deal.
  • David Onyemata is leaping over from a division rival. The veteran defensive tackle had five sacks last season and will add a nasty pass-rushing presence to pair with Grady Jarrett on the defensive line.
  • Atlanta’s bringing back punter Bradley Pinion on a three-year deal. It’s one of the eight highest annual salaries for a punter, which is a bit surprising, but it seems like quite a bit of that money is coming up front.
  • The biggest signing of the day? (Well, unconfirmed signing, anyways)? Jessie Bates III, who should be a tremendous addition to the defense given his all-around game and playmaking ability.
  • Kaden Elliss is also joining from the division rival Saints, fresh off a seven sack breakout season. The hope will be that he can build on that and become a versatile force for good in Atlanta, where he’ll likely play outside at times in four linebacker looks and inside next to Troy Andersen otherwise.
  • The Falcons have their Desmond Ridder competition and insurance, adding former Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke. A 24 game starter over the past two seasons—and a quarterback who beat the Falcons twice in that span—Heinicke offers experience and a willingness to go deep, if not always the best decision-making.
  • Kaleb McGary is back, too. The veteran right tackle re-signed for a surprisingly team-friendly three year deal, meaning he’ll once again help pave the way for the ground game and hopefully keep Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke upright in 2023.
  • Tae Davis is your newest Falcon. The veteran linebacker has played a lot of on special teams and very little on defense over the course of his career, making him a strong candidate to be this year’s Daren Bates or Nick Kwiatkoski, a break-in-case-of-emergency linebacker and core special teamer.

Rumors & reports

Free agency

March 17: The Falcons will host free agent cornerback Mike Hughes for a visit over the weekend, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Hughes is a solid part-time starter who, as Fowler notes, once overlapped with Jerry Gray. Still just 26 years old and with 18 starts under his belt, Hughes would be good competition for a cornerback group that does need more help even with Darren Hall, Dee Alford, and Jamal Peters in the mix behind A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward.

March 16: The Record Sports reporter Art Stapleton reports that the Falcons are believed to have made an offer to Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton, a Kevin Knight favorite:

Slayton would add experience and ability to a pretty bare wide receiver group, so stay tuned on this one. He’s coming off a season with over 700 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns on 46 receptions.

Also, the Falcons still have interest in bringing Rashaan Evans back, per D. Orlando Ledbetter. Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen are likely to move around a bit, meaning Evans likely has appeal for them as an early down option in the middle.

Legal tampering

  • The Falcons have shown interest in free agent Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon, per insider Josina Anderson.
  • Basically everyone expects the Falcons to sign Jessie Bates III. It has been so widely rumored and reported that it would be a faint surprise if they didn’t land the terrific free agent safety, so let’s hope.
  • One of the reporters linking Bates to the Falcons is Falcon Report lead Daniel Flick, who also has an intriguing name he says the Falcons are chasing. That would be Alexander Mattison, a 24-year-old backup to Dalvin Cook who has been consistently productive when he has seen game action and has just over 400 carries in the NFL to his name. Mattison is a capable pass catcher and physical runner would be a nice complement to Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson.
  • The Falcons may have checked in on another Minnesota running back, as well. KSTP5 reporter Darren Wolfson in Minnesota has a vague report that Atlanta has “inquired” on the availability of Dalvin Cook, a back I like a lot but who also has a lot of miles on him. Wolfson does say he expects Cook to stay with the Vikings in 2023.
  • The Falcons have been all about the action thus far, and there aren’t that many convincing rumors as a result. What a wild year.