The Atlanta Falcons spent much of the 2022 season searching for a replacement for an injured Casey Hayward, a big problem they were never entirely able to solve. Darren Hall and Rashad Fenton were among the candidates the team tried out and eventually cast aside, but it was Cornell Armstrong who ended up starting down the stretch.
Armstrong was on his third team when he landed with the Falcons in December 2021 as a member of the practice squad, showing enough to earn a reserve/future deal in January 2022 and making it all the way through to late August in Atlanta, when he was placed on injured reserve. After his release on August 24, it was not clear if he’d return to the Falcons, but he did in October and wound up playing a significant role in a brutal loss to the Cincinnati Bengals where the Falcons were diced through the air by Joe Burrow.
That might’ve been it for Armstrong, given that he was being thrown into an impossible situation and got lit up, had the Falcons had more options. Instead, Armstrong stuck and wound up playing the majority of snaps in five more games for Atlanta the rest of the way, turning into the team’s preferred option opposite A.J. Terrell down the stretch. Clearly the Falcons saw something they liked over those starts, as they have re-signed the 27-year-old cornerback, per his agent Brett Tessler.
My client Cornell Armstrong has agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Atlanta Falcons. 6th year corner started 4 games for them last season and had multiple offers elsewhere.— Brett Tessler (@TesslerSports) March 18, 2023
Armstrong’s performance last year does not suggest he should be competing to start for Atlanta in 2023, but that in combination with the faith the team showed in him certainly does suggest he’ll be a favorite for one of the team’s reserve roles if he can impress new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. This is an extremely unsettled depth chart beyond A.J. Terrell and Hayward (if he sticks on the roster), and a player the Falcons relied on in tough circumstances late in the year who provided solid run defense and some quality stretches in coverage should have an early leg up on a spot.
The Falcons need another high-end starter at cornerback pretty badly, but they won’t lack for competition for those reserve roles, as they currently have 10 corners under contract heading into next season. Armstrong joins a group highlighted by former draft pick Darren Hall, CFL import and impressive reserve Dee Alford, and recent CFL import Jamal Peters. The team will almost certainly keep adding to the position group, but as of today Armstrong, Alford, and Hall would seem to be in line for spots.
Give Armstrong a warm welcome back, and we’ll see if he can once again battle his way on to the Falcons roster in 2023.