What’s the next step for the Atlanta Falcons? With the Matt Ryan trade to Indy, you are basically saying we are in full rebuild mode. In my opinion, this is long overdue. The rebuild should’ve started after the Super Bowl LI loss. I mean you officially move into a $1.6 billion dollar stadium after a crushing defeat? Needless to say, with a new general manager and head coach, a fresh start to becoming a Super Bowl contender is a top priority.
Let’s start with Matt Ryan’s salary cap situation. Ryan signed a five-year, $150 million dollar contract extension with the Falcons during the 2018 offseason. Guaranteed money is around $100 million of the contract making the dead cap hit pretty expensive at just under $25 million. That’s a lot for any team to pay just to trade a player away. But eating up the dead cap space will mainly affect the team this year and not the years to come which is most important for a rebuild. Acquiring draft capital is one of the main priorities. In return, the Falcons got a 2022 third-round pick from the deal which isn’t bad.
With the league trending in an offensive direction, here are three decisions Atlanta should make this offseason for the future.
- Molding the offensive line to play as one
Getting Chris Lindstrom in the first round of the 2019 draft was a great addition coming out of Boston College. The school is known for having smart players like Luke Kuechly, and Matt Ryan which probably is a reason they drafted him. Other linemen such as Jalen Mayfield, and Kaleb McGary can continue to grow and learn at their respective positions, giving any future franchise quarterback solid protection. Left Tackle Jake Matthews has been with the team since 2014 and can add much need experience going forward with such a young OL group. Last season they allowed 40 sacks which isn’t bad compared to years prior. Molding this young unit to protect the passer is key for a rebuild and as long as they keep continue to play better each year, the ball can come out faster and have fewer turnovers.
- Focus on Acquiring Solid Weapons
Kyle Pitts is a great start to rebuilding your offense but the receiving core is decimated. With the departure of the beloved Julio Jones last offseason and Calvin Ridley’s season-long suspension, you know have holes to fill. Not to mention Russell Gage signing with the Bucs. Now you really need to figure out if you want to build through the draft where there is a plethora of wide receiver talent or try free agency with some big names looking for a new team. The team was 16th in passing yards per game and 26th in points per game. Having room for improvement is always a plus.
- Getting Better Pass Rushers
The Los Angeles Rams just gave everyone the blueprint on what winning in today’s NFL will look like going forward; a great quarterback, good solid wide receivers, and a great pass rush. Atlanta was 32nd in the league last season in sacks with just 18. Most passing means more chances to rush the quarterback means a high chance of causing fumbles. Once again you have two options: Build through the draft or sign free agents.
Building an NFL team is hard. You have to get the most important pieces right and have a good supporting cast. Personally, the best fit for the team would be to follow the Rams model, but get Liberty QB Malik Willis within the next few years if he is not available on draft day. That would give you enough time to rebuild and just add one final piece.