It was always likely that Wednesday would be a little slow and a little quiet compared to the first two days of legal tampering. Even though free agency officially opened at 4 p.m. yesterday, the Falcons had thrown their money around and come up with a series of major moves that had been all but confirmed.
The confirmation was what we expected yesterday, and with one exception, confirmation was not forthcoming. The team will make their signings official at their own pace in the days to come, and it’s more important that they’re confirmed than when.
Still, Wednesday did bring some news, so let’s recap it quickly.
Jonnu Smith trade confirmed
Smith is in Atlanta, back with the coach he enjoyed success with in 2019 and 2020, and the Falcons have officially surrendered a measly seventh rounder to get him. Smith’s contract is a bit onerous—the team is reportedly restructuring it—and there are no guarantees he’ll return to form, but it’s nice to have this one locked in.
The success MyCole Pruitt enjoyed last year in Atlanta, especially in the red zone, is a teaser for what we might expect for Smith. The Falcons’ head coach likes his guys at tight end—Parker Hesse, Anthony Firkser, and Pruitt have all had stints in Atlanta after overlapping with him in Tennessee—and Smith was his most productive receiving tight end. Arthur Smith found Jonnu Smith opportunities in the red zone and utilized his ability to make things happen after the catch without having him run the kinds of absurdly shallow routes New England deployed, and the story should be similar in Atlanta. Smith will likely be something like the fourth option in the passing game, behind Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and the starting-wide-receiver-to-be-named, but that role will lead to him having a pretty productive season if all goes well.
A low-cost, moderate-upside pickup, Smith should be a positive addition to the roster. I’ll look forward to seeing what Smith the coach cooks up for Smith the player.
Isaiah Oliver departs for 49ers
The other news was less positive. Oliver, who was a standout for a few games in 2021 before a major injury struck, had stretches where he looked terrific and others where he was quiet in 2022, but his all-around quality play figured to make him a strong candidate to land back in Atlanta.
Instead, a team with some interesting, affordable young options and strong ties to draft-eligible cornerbacks is seeing Oliver go elsewhere. He’ll land in San Francisco, where he’ll likely have a significant role on a very good defense, while the Falcons mull who their next nickel cornerback will be. I’m sad to see him go—Oliver’s a player I’ve always liked a lot—but I’m confident Atlanta will land a quality player to replace him.
Now we wait
The Falcons sent a large contingent to Georgia’s pro day on Wednesday, so maybe that’s part of the reason for a quieter day. Regardless, we’ll start seeing signings made official in the coming days, and there should be a few more additions to come. Atlanta has seemed loath to go into the NFL Draft without at least some kind of option at every position, and right now there really just doesn’t seem to be a credible one at wide receiver outside of Drake London. They also still need depth everywhere, and given that Terry Fontenot has shown a fondness and affinity for finding cheap and useful players in 2021 and 2022, we should expect him to go digging again in the near future.
So we wait after a wild Monday and Tuesday. A breather’s not so bad.