Predictions for the Falcons offseason

For the first time in what feels like an eternity, the Falcons have some excitement about the franchise this offseason. The end of Rebuild is in sight, and there’s a reasonable chance this team will be in the playoffs by this time next year. After a season in which the Falcons won 7-10, they have the second-highest pick of any team, along with a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. If Terry Fontenot and company pull the right strings, there’s no reason they can’t win a lazy NFC South.

Hawks trap the core of their offensive line

Most people probably wouldn’t have disagreed with the Falcons’ decision not to take Kaleb McGary’s fifth-year option for 2023, but it turned out to be a mistake by the new regime. The former Washington Husky was one of the better right tackles in the league and will earn a multi-year deal in a weak free-agent class for the position this offseason.

The Falcons don’t need to sign him, but a punishing offensive line is critical to Arthur Smith’s offense and became the team’s identity. Locking up Chris Lindstrom, who earned second-team All-Pro honors this season, is a no-brainer, but signing McGary in a similar deal should also be an option. These two will be staples in Atlanta for the foreseeable future.

The Falcons sign an experienced quarterback to face Desmond Ridder

There will be no shortage of discussions about the Falcons’ situation at quarterback this offseason, and it should be. It’s the most important position in the sport, and the Falcons will never be a legitimate contender until they find their next franchise QB.

Everything should be on the table. The Falcons were able to pick a quarterback in the draft; They could try trading for a more experienced presence, or they could even stay with Ridder for another season to see what they really have in him. I’m going with the latter, but it won’t come without competition. After cutting ties with Marcus Mariota, I got the Falcons to sign another veteran quarterback to compete with Ridder this offseason. The hope is that Ridder is the guy, but he needs to win the job against a proven commodity. It is not simply handed over to him.

Casey Hayward is cut to allow more room for the cap

The Falcons don’t have many players who should be left out this offseason. Marcus Mariota is the obvious candidate. There’s no way he should be on the squad after what’s happened this season, but otherwise, it could be argued that no one else should be fired.

The only other situation in the air is Casey Hayward. The Falcons can save $5 million off next year’s cap by getting rid of the veteran, and I think they’re doing that. $5 million isn’t a ton of money, and Hayward has been decent when he’s been on the field this season, but he suffered a mid-season injury and will turn 34 next season. There aren’t many cornerbacks that succeed at that age, especially those who have sustained serious injuries. I have the Falcons cutting ties with Hayward and getting younger in the position across from AJ Terrell.

Falcons draft a cornerback in the first round

Outside of the quarterback position, the focus of the offseason should be on defense. Offensively, this team already has a lot of quality pieces, but you can’t say the same on the other side of the ball. The Falcons need help at all three levels of defense, not just the line of defense.

Improving the secondary is a must, and while I expect Atlanta to expand their defensive line, I don’t like many of the prospects that will be available when the Falcons take 8th overall. There are plenty of corners that could go that high, however, and Atlanta could potentially even trade back and pick their man. With their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, I expect the Falcons will spend them finding a running mate for AJ Terrell.

Hawks add numbers to the line of defense

Both Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have said multiple times this offseason that the defensive front will be the focus this offseason, and we’re not even a month into it. The Falcons’ passing rush has been pathetic for nearly a decade, but especially in the last two seasons as they have 20 fewer sacks than any other team in football. That must be especially frustrating for Terry Fontenot, who came from a New Orleans franchise that was one of the best teams to get behind quarterback. The pass rush won’t be fixed overnight in Atlanta, but the overhaul is beginning in a big way this offseason. I expect the Falcons to add a lot of bodies to the line of defense with the draft and the free hand – I’m talking about 5-6 guys.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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