What the Atlanta Falcons’ $233 million spending spree means, and what’s next

ATLANTA. On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons finally revealed what the “next phase” of their recovery process will look like.

That’s how general manager Terry Fontenot described this offseason, when the Falcons have money to spend for the first time since he and Arthur Smith were hired in January 2021.

“We had a plan from the start and we are now in the next phase of that,” Fonteno said. “This off-season will be different than previous years.”

The next step is to be competitive with free rein and not wait for deals.

Between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., the franchise spent at least $233 million in cash over the life of the contract on trades, contract extensions, re-signing own players, and negotiating terms with free agents. for six players.

While real money per view is often a guaranteed part of the deal, it’s still a far cry from having to restructure and cut players just to be capped.

Here’s how they did it:

  • Traded this year’s 245th pick for tight end Jonna Smith (base salary of $21 million remains between 2023 and 2024).

  • Extended Pro Bowl right-back Chris Lindstrom’s contract for five years ($105 million, according to Sportzshala’s Adam Schefter).

  • Agreed with security guard Jesse Bates III on a four-year contract ($64.02 million).

  • Agreed with defenseman David Onyemata on a three-year contract ($35 million).

  • Re-signed player Bradley Pinyon for three years ($8.65 million) and defenseman Keith Smith for one year, according to his agent (undisclosed).

Later on Monday night, the team negotiated terms with former Saints midfielder Caden Ellis (not disclosed).

So the Falcons’ true costs will be higher due to Ellis’ contract, potential $2 million in lineup bonuses on Jonnu Smith’s contract, and the unknown nature of Keith Smith’s contract, but potentially more manageable as a source told Sportzshala that Jonnu Smith’s contract will be renegotiated.

These moves created a potential franchise-changing day, possibly becoming NFC South contenders.

What do deals mean

The Falcons had to upgrade their defenses. Last season they were 29th in defensive efficiency (41.23) and expected defensive scoring (-71.8), last in sacks per drop (3.5) and 31st in third loss. in defense (45.9%).

By agreeing to terms with Onyemata and Bates, they solved several problems.

While Onyemata is 30 years old, he has been remarkably resilient – having played less than 15 games in a season just once – and is well acquainted with new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. He will set the tone on the line.

Pair him with Grady Jarrett and Ta’Kwon Graham and it will automatically cause problems for opposing lines of attack and play. Onyemata had 26.8% win stops in the inside lane – 58th in the league, 20 spots behind Jarrett – and 118 runs against the dual teams, 14th in the league.

Onemata was pressured on 5.0% of his passes—Jarrett had 5.6%, by comparison—and when he got the first pressure, the opposing quarterbacks had just 2.55 yards per try.

In Bates, Atlanta hired an elite 26-year-old playmaker to work with star cornerback AJ Terrell.

In three of Bates’ five seasons in Cincinnati, his passer rating was below 78, according to the Pro Football Reference. Bates allowed a 51.4 percent completion rate in the PFR last season. In a small sample, Bates showed prowess against a run with a 40.7 run-stop winrate – No. 40 among defensemen.

He will be part of the defensive core along with Jarrett and Terrell.

Ellis may be the biggest unknown in the group. While he was with the Saints, so he knows Nielsen, he spent one season as a prolific NFL quarterback, throwing 74 tackles and seven sacks last year. It was his first year in which he played more than a quarter of snaps in New Orleans defense. He had a pass rush win rate of 12.1% and a run stop win rate of 31.4%. PFR had a 61.3% opposition completion rate with no touchdowns allowed on the surface.

By renewing Lindstrom, Atlanta did two things: live up to the talk of caring for their players by making him the highest-paid defenseman with an average annual salary in league history, and provide the offensive line with a player that could be built for the next half century.

Lindström is rarely penalized – his first call-up to the pros came in his fourth season in the NFL – and he’s always in the locker room.

A trade for Jonna Smith gives Atlanta insurance as tight end star Kyle Pitts returns from injury. Smith had his best seasons with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, either as an ex officio coach or offensive coordinator while both were with the Tennessee Titans.

If his numbers in the No. 2 tight end are the same as in Tennessee – 41 receptions, 448 yards, eight touchdowns – it will be an advantage.

Piñon’s re-signing kept continuity between the special teams, plus Piñon had one of his best seasons last year with an average of 45.9 yards. Keith Smith is a key player on special teams and can line up in multiple places on offense.

The key to every move Atlanta made on Monday is this: The player was familiar with it beforehand. Lindstrom, Keith Smith and Pignon were already with the Falcons. Jonnu Smith worked with Arthur Smith in Tennessee. Nielsen coached Onyemata and Ellis in New Orleans, and new secondary coach Steve Jackson coached Bates for two seasons in Cincinnati.

When the Falcons hand out money, they want to know as much as they can, so it’s no wonder the players they target and land.

What’s next

Despite all the wasted Atlanta, they still have a long to-do list.

While the exact remaining ceiling spot remains volatile, the Falcons still have their best free agent, unsigned right tackle Caleb McGary. This will be a situation to watch. There are questions to the left-back, where last year’s player Elijah Wilkinson is a free agent. The top option on the list is Matt Hennessy, who showed his ability when he started.

With the addition of Ellis and Onyemata, the Falcons did draw in some help from the top seven along with the re-signing of Lorenzo Carter last week, but Atlanta may still be doing some defensive line and linebacker work.

There’s a chance of a No. 2 quarterback – veteran Casey Hayward breaking out with a torn late-season chest – and a wide receiver rework with only Drake London, Frank Darby, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali and Ra’Shaun. Henry under contract.

In addition, in addition to Desmond Ridder and Logan Woodside, Atlanta will add a quarterback. (Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, the Falcons agreed to a two-year contract worth up to $20 million with quarterback Taylor Heinicke, sources confirmed to Sportzshala’s Adam Schefter.)

“We will add to [quarterback] position, whether it’s free agency, draft or both,” Fontenot said at the scouting combine.

Given Ridder’s relative inexperience, choosing a veteran might make sense.

So while Atlanta took a few steps to become a contender on Monday and played it like never before, there’s still a lot to be done.


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