The Atlanta Falcons, the team that finished last in the NFC South this past season, have somewhat quietly had a solid offseason and the best moves may be yet to come.
What a mess. Five games into 2020, the Atlanta Falcons had failed to win a game and following a 23-16 home loss to the rival Carolina Panthers, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff got their pink slips. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris led the club to a 4-7 finish and the team dropped their final five outings. The franchise posted a 4-12 mark, the Falcons’ worst finish since an identical record in 2013.
Enter general manager Terry Fontenot, head coach Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and veteran defensive mind Dean Pees, the latter back in the league after a very brief retirement.
The club’s new executive has been reshaping the team’s roster and the latest additions are veteran safety Duron Harmon and offensive and special teams’ weapon Cordarrelle Patterson.
The team’s biggest deficiencies this past season was a sub-standard ground game and the league’s 29th-ranked defensive unit. Todd Gurley hasn’t been re-signed but the club added running back Mike Davis, late of the rival Carolina Panthers.
On the other side of the ball, free agency has netted Harmon and fellow safety Erik Harris (Raiders), as well as talented cornerback Fabian Moreau. No team allowed more yards through the air in 2020 than the Falcons, a team that surrendered 34 touchdown passes. And it’s worth noting that safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee have joined Quinn in Dallas while Ricardo Allen was scooped by the Bengals after being cut loose earlier this year.
But interesting comes in the form of nine draft choices, including the fourth overall selection on April 29. Does Fontenot stand pat and perhaps plan for the future — although 13-year quarterback Matt Ryan shows no signs of slowing down? Or does a team make the Falcons a super offer and allow Atlanta to net more picks both in 2021 and perhaps down the road as well.
Moving up in a division that includes the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, a Saints’ team (albeit minus Drew Brees) that has won the NFC South four straight years and a Panthers’ squad that beat them in their own building in 2020, Smith and the Atlanta Falcons have their work cut out for them. But if the offense continues to shine and Pees can fix the defense sooner than later, this is a team that could make life difficult for the rest of the conference.