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Grading Day 2 of legal tampering: Falcons continue to build

There weren’t many moves, but the quality was there.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

While it was nearly impossible to top day one of the legal tampering period, the Falcons continued making improvements to their roster with a couple of very savvy moves, using their ongoing cap space.

The fanbase went to bed happy and excited for the future following the big splashes made on Monday, and they were awakened to a depth signing on Tuesday morning before seeing the team lock up its own biggest key free agent in the late afternoon period. The headlines weren’t at dominated, but the roster is better at this moment than it was 24 hours ago.

Our way-too-early grades continue with Day 2. Of course, we won’t be able to fully and decisively grade any of these moves for a long time, but we can have some fun discussing and speculating on what we can at this very moment.

Taylor Heinicke Signing: 2 years, $14 million (max value of $20 million)

Terry Fontenot starting the day off by bringing in some much needed quarterback help, and he did so by signing the pride of Gwinnett County and Collins Hill High School, Taylor Heinicke. This is someone with 24 games of starting experience over the past two seasons, accumulating a 12-11-1 record in place of injured and benched QBs who were ahead of him on the depth chart.

Heinicke is a high end backup at worst and the Falcons will only be paying a $5 million cap hit this season for his services. If they choose to bring him back next season, that hit would go to $9 million, but they could part ways and eat just $2 million in dead cap. He will push Desmond Ridder in training camp and have a fair shot at competing for the QB1 role for his hometown team. If he wins, he stands to make up to $6 million more in incentives over the life of the deal. If he loses and Ridder gets hurt or plays poorly, he can step in and keep the train on the tracks.

While Heinicke has his limitations as a passer, this is a low risk value signing for Atlanta.

Grade: B

Kaleb McGary Extension: 3 years, $34.5 million

To extend McGary at this sort of value feels like a move of sheer wizardry from Fontenot. To put things in perspective, Spotrac gave McGary a projected market valuation of 4 years, $71 million ($17.7 annual average). Among the other top tackles on the market, Jawaan Taylor received 4 years, $80 million and Mike McGlinchey received 5 years, $87.5 million. Going into free agency, McGary was thought to be in this top tier among his position group following his breakout season in 2022.

Instead, Atlanta just extended arguably the top run blocking tackle in the league in 2022 to what feels like a bargain deal. While the pass blocking remains in question and it is always a concern when a player has a breakout like this in his contract year, Atlanta will likely structure this contract to mitigate a great amount of risk by likely having the last year mostly or fully unguaranteed.

The Birds will have continued stability along their offensive line and as easy as it would have been for Fontenot to panic and apply the franchise tag to McGary (as many predicted he would), the GM stayed patient and got his high end tackle back for well below market value. This deal feels like it will be hard to top.

Grade: A