The Falcons figured to scoop up a handful of Saints defenders this offseason, given that Ryan Nielsen joined as defensive coordinator after a long stretch coaching the defensive line in New Orleans. One of those players figured to be Marcus Davenport, but while the Falcons apparently pursued him, he landed in Minnesota. Instead, Atlanta lands another Saints pass rusher and linebacker,
That would be Kaden Elliss, the former Idaho product and Saints seventh round draft pick who is coming off a career year where he piled up seven sacks in just 11 starts. Elliss, who will turn 28 in July, will hope to build on 2022 by reuniting with Nielsen and helping a moribund Atlanta pass rush in 2023. He played every linebacker position a year ago, and I’d presume he’d get time at outside linebacker and inside linebacker depending on team need this season.
The #Falcons make another big move on defense, as former #Saints LB Kaden Elliss is headed to Atlanta, sources say. With seven sacks and 78 tackles in 11 starts, he became a hot free agent. He shined in his opportunity, now cashes in.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2023
The contract is for three seasons and $21.5 million, with a total guarantee of $11 million. We’ll see what the structure looks like in the next couple of days, and whether the Falcons are investing multiple year in Elliss or taking a one-year look.
It's a 3-year, $21.5M deal with $11M guaranteed for the #Falcons and Kaden Elliss. https://t.co/n6iIb64AFO— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2023
This is an addition that projects forward, rather than backward, given that Elliss has just one great season. Elliss was a useful special teamer for New Orleans for three seasons but rarely played on defense, making just one start in his first three years and managing one sack. In 2022, he played in all 17 games, started 11, came up with seven sacks, forced a pair of fumbles, and did well in his coverage opportunities. Elliss was very good last year in just about every way you can think of—a solid run defender and unexpectedly potent pass rusher—and is young enough that he could enjoy several quality seasons in the years to come. At the absolute worst, he’s a situational pass rusher and a capable special teamer, but the Falcons are investing in him being much more than that.
The question is whether this is the sign of a breakout and a great run to come, or a one-hit wonder for Elliss. Nielsen and the Falcons front office clearly believes it’s the former, and are betting on a relatively young athlete who finally got an opportunity turning that chance into something more. If that’s the case, he should be an asset for a Falcons pass rush that badly needs help, and we certainly hope Elliss can be a huge addition for Atlanta. He joins a young group where he’ll actually likely be the elder statesman, with Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Lorenzo Carter, and Adetokunbo Ogundeji currently comprising the rest of the outside linebacker group and Troy Andersen and Mykal Walker currently penciled in at inside linebacker. If all goes well, Elliss will be one of the most productive pass rushers on the team, if not the most productive, and should provide versatility for a defense that will require it.
Give Elliss a warm welcome to Atlanta, and let’s hope last year’s seven sack season and versatility was a harbinger of the kind of impact he can have with the Falcons.