The Atlanta Falcons 2023 free agency period kicked off with more than ten transactions in the opening days. Terry Fontenot has spending money for the first time this offseason after alleviating Atlanta’s historic cap woes the previous two seasons.
The Falcons 2023 free agency has been distinct from that standpoint, but the moves have followed the same approach Fontenot has taken since his tenure began. Solidifying needs in free agency so the team can take the best players available in the draft. That’s not to say the Falcons 2023 free agency class isn’t packed with talent. It is. However, examining closely, it’s evident that no luxury signings occurred, and the team focused on building a foundation.
Falcons 2023 free agency moves so far:
- OG Chris Lindstrom, extension 5 yr $105M
- RT Kaleb McGary, re-sign 3 yr $34.5M
- FB Keith Smith, re-sign 1 yr $2.35M deal
- EDGE Lorenzo Carter, re-sign 2 yr $9M deal
- P/KOS Bradley Pinon, re-sign 3 yr $8.65M deal
Fans and analysts often called out the 2022 roster for its lack of talent, but a handful of players were more than worthy of re-signing and extending. The Falcons solidified the right side of their offensive line by extending All-Pro Chris Lindstrom and re-signing Kaleb McGary.
Lindstrom, who has been a top RG since entering the league and got named to the AP All-Pro 2nd-team in 2022, broke the bank. However, Fontenot secured McGary for well below market value on a team-friendly deal that gives Atlanta an easy out after two years.
Another dependable run blocker coming back is fullback Keith Smith. I thought the team might move on from Smith, but he returns after a solid performance in one of the top rushing offenses of 2022.
Lorenzo Carter is currently the only re-signed player from the 2022 defense. Carter offers little as a pass rusher, but is sound in the run game and a good depth piece. He only commanded $5.25M in guaranteed money, and the team has a clean out after year one in which they could save $3.75M.
Of all the Falcons 2023 free agency moves, punter and kickoff specialist Bradley Pinion might be my favorite. Atlanta’s special teams were ranked 5th in DVOA last year, and re-signing Pinion keeps their specialist core intact for a few more seasons.
Signed/ Trade Acquisition
- S Jessie Bates, signed 4 yr $64M
- QB Taylor Heinicke, signed 2 yr $14M
- LB Kaden Elliss, signed 3 yr $21.5
- DT David Onyemata, signed 3 yr $35M
- TE Jonnu Smith, traded for pick 245 (contract detail pending)
- LB Tae Davis, signed 1 yr $1.23M
(Contract details provided via OTC)
I mentioned earlier that the Falcons 2023 free agency class didn’t have any luxury signings, but Jessie Bates might be deemed one in the eyes of some analysts. While $64M is a lot for a safety, it’s not like Bates reset the market. He has the fourth largest contract among safeties. More importantly, Bates is a perfect fit for new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen’s defense and high-end talent.
Speaking of fits for Nielsen, the Falcons were able to sign two former Saints defenders to three-year deals. Kaden Elliss cashed in by comparison to other linebackers on the market. Elliss is a non-traditional LB who is most effective as a blitzer; he exploded for seven sacks last year.
David Onyemata provides Grady Jarrett with legitimate help in the interior for the first time in his career. His deal is backloaded, which allows the Falcons to play with more money in the meantime and move on after two years if needed.
The only player acquired via trade in the Falcons 2023 free agency class was tight end Jonnu Smith. Smith cost the Falcons their 245th pick, the lowest of their three 7th-round picks. The TE excelled in Arthur Smith’s offense before his lackluster stint in New England. He’s a solid addition to a TE room featuring Kyle Pitts.
The other offensive backup addition is quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Initially, Heinicke’s contract indicated that there might be an “open competition” to start camp, but the QB stated that he was here to back up Desmond Ridder. Heinicke isn’t a viable starter anyways, but he is a solid QB2 to have for a few games if your starter does go down.
The most recent signing the Falcons have made is linebacker Tae Davis, who looks to make an impact mainly on special team.
A New Era
The Falcons 2023 free agency has been unlike any other in almost a decade. The team filled many holes across its roster with quality, high-end talent. Not every signing is perfect; we’ll have to see if this core can help Atlanta push through the final stage of their rebuild and become a competitive playoff team. Until then, let’s look forward to the NFL draft and the rest of the offseason.