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By: Matt Urben
The Atlanta Falcons took an unconventional approach to hiring a new general manager and head coach back in 2021. Usually, teams will hire a GM first and allow that person to pick a head coach.
However, the Falcons hired head coach Arthur Smith a few days before bringing general manager Terry Fontenot aboard. Smith and Fontenot have found a way to work together but the long-term direction of the team still feels somewhat unclear.
The Falcons have done some good work under Fontenot, particularly with the salary cap. Back in 2021, the team was riddled with bloated contracts of players who were no longer producing. Fontenot traded away Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Deion Jones and Calvin Ridley in his first two offseasons.
These moves created enough cap space to add players like Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell and Kaden Elliss over the 2023 offseason. So where does the Falcons GM rank in Pro Football Focus’ general manager rankings?
PFF’s Brad Spielberger placed each GM into one of three tiers and Fontenot landed in Tier 3:
Early in his tenure, Fontenot showed signs of a different thought process than the one in New Orleans, where he cut his teeth in the NFL, with a sharp trade down from the No. 35 overall pick in 2021 to land safety Richie Grant and center Drew Dalman with pick No.’s 40 and 114.
Fontenot utilized his Saints connections this offseason to add a solid defensive coordinator in Ryan Nielsen and key defensive contributors in interior defender David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss.
However, this team has a clearly limited ceiling, which was very foreseeable after their offseason. The defense is the 10th-oldest in the league by average age, so while it has been great to see marked improvement, the odds are that they’ll need significant reinforcements before the overall roster is competitive. — Brad Spielberger, PFF
After a 2-0 start to the season, it looked like the Falcons were turning things around. The team would go on to lose six of its next eight games, though, and the future suddenly doesn’t look as bright.
PFF highlighted that the team has spent a lot of money on what many consider to be non-premium positions.
Atlanta has allocated a lot of draft capital and money to non-premium positions, making it harder to get out of the middle of the pack going forward as they build around top-five contracts at guard and safety.
The Falcons have little talent to speak of at edge rusher and are without a long-term answer at quarterback despite drafting in the top eight for three straight years. — Brad Spielberger, PFF
At 4-6, the Falcons are currently on track to land the No. 9 overall pick in the 2024 draft. That would be the team’s fourth year in a row with a top-10 draft pick.
Originally posted on Falcons Wire