Following rookie minicamp, the Atlanta Falcons have been busy tinkering with their roster. With over a dozen moves in the last week, including a few surprising releases like veteran offensive tackle Germain Ifedi, the team has dramatically shifted the bottom of their depth chart heading into OTAs.
It appears that Atlanta isn’t done just yet, as the team announced a pair of moves on Monday. The Falcons signed former second-round wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and placed 2022 UDFA wide receiver Jared Bernhardt on the reserve/retired list.
'Cause I'm Mr. Arcega-Whiteside!— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) May 22, 2023
Both of these moves are intriguing, but let’s start with Bernhardt. A former lacrosse star and preseason standout from last season, Bernhardt surprisingly made the roster after showing instant chemistry with Desmond Ridder. He was on the receiving end of a heroic last-minute touchdown play to get Atlanta an exciting preseason victory. Bernhardt was active for two games, but played just nine offensive snaps and registered no targets or catches.
It’s sad to see Bernhardt retire after such a promising start to his NFL career. We don’t have any details on Bernhardt’s decision to retire at this time, but I sincerely hope he finds success in his next path. Perhaps he’ll return to lacrosse, where he was one of the most dynamic players in the world.
Now joining the roster is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who was among a large group of players who tried out for the Falcons at rookie minicamp. Arcega-Whiteside stood out to Atlanta Falcons reporter Tori McElhaney, who had this to stay after the first day of rookie minicamp:
The 6-foot-2, 237 pound pass catcher may not have the build of the long and speedy receivers that are so often coveted in this league, but based on the way this offense likes to play, Arcega-Whiteside is someone who could fit right in. He runs with power, and he’s thick. He’d be a tough tackle for a wiry defensive back. I’d like to see his blocking skills in action, too, because of his size. With the way the Falcons run the ball, that skill set could be a particular draw in this offense.
Arcega-Whiteside was a dominant college receiver at Stanford, where he put up 1,059 yards (16.8 YPR) and 14 TDs in his senior season. That led to a second-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles back in the 2019 NFL Draft, but Arcega-Whiteside was never able to live up to those lofty expectations. In three seasons with the Eagles, Arcega-Whiteside appeared in 40 games (7 starts) and produced 16 receptions for 290 yards (18.1 YPR) along with 1 TD.
Arcega-Whiteside joins a wide-open competition for one or two receiver spots on Atlanta’s 53-man roster. His NFL experience and size profile (6’2, 225) should help him stand out, and it’s notable that he graded out very well as a run blocker (75.4) and special teams player (71.8) in his most recent season (2021) according to PFF. Those are attributes that the Falcons covet, particularly in depth players.
Join us in welcoming J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to the team, and wishing Jared Bernhardt well in his future endeavors.