The Falcons have had it rough since Super Bowl LI. Not only did they blow a huge lead in that game, but the Dirty Birds haven’t recovered from the loss ever since. This year, the Falcons ended the season with a 4-12 record, earning them the fourth pick overall in the upcoming draft. Some of the Atlanta Falcons team needs are cap space, youth, and a better pass rush. Before they start on personnel, however, the team must first decide on a staff.
Where to Start?
With an early pick in this year’s draft, the Falcons should be able to acquire some top talent. However, Atlanta is in full rebuild mode after the owner, Arthur Blank, announced that superstars Matt Ryan and Julio Jones could be traded this offseason.
Despite what some Falcons fans may think, having Ryan and Jones available for trade makes the most sense for this team. They have to cast the widest possible net in an effort to land the next GM. If Blank were to say that Ryan and Jones are in Atlanta to stay, it would narrow their list of potential candidates significantly.
Shedding salary is easier said than done, however, and the more players you get rid of in order to clear cap space, the more the list of Atlanta Falcons team needs grows. This double-edged sword is going to have to be handled by a new GM and new head coach, making this job one of the most daunting in the league. Things can start to turn around for them but they have to nail a few of these moves.
Atlanta Falcons Team Needs: Staff Predictions
Hire Ryan Cowden as General Manager
First on the list of Atlanta Falcons team needs is a general manager. Currently holding the Vice President of Player Personnel position for the Tennessee Titans, Ryan Cowden will be a sought-after candidate across the league. Cowden has been working in the NFL for 21 years and joined the Titans in 2018. Since his arrival, he’s helped Tennessee acquire some of the top players on the roster like Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Butler, and Ryan Tannehill. He has a keen eye for talent and would be a great hire for this struggling Falcons franchise.
Hire Raheem Morris as Head Coach
Possibly the most important of all of the Atlanta Falcons team needs is a head coach. Raheem Morris took over as the interim head coach after Week five this year when the Falcons were winless. In the 11 games Raheem Morris coached this year, the Falcons went 4-7. That’s a big improvement just from one coaching change.
Since taking over, the Falcons seemed to be more competitive. They lost by less than one touchdown in five of the seven losses since Morris stepped in as HC. He could be an even better coach if the franchise can acquire a better roster. The fact the culture of the Falcons changed so abruptly shows that he should be highly regarded for this position.
Atlanta Falcons Team Needs: Free Agency Predictions
As we enter the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons team needs are going to have to be solved mainly through re-signings and not free agents. They are $45 million over the cap, They’re in one of the worst financial situations (if not, the worst) in the league. If they are going to rebuild, trading away Matt Ryan and Julio Jones becomes an Atlanta Falcons team need. If Ryan and Jones are traded or not, here are a few moves the front office could still make in an effort to start crossing things off of the list of Atlanta Falcons team needs.
Re-sign Keanu Neal
Keanu Neal isn’t known as the best safety in the league but he is at least consistent. After playing 15 of the 16 games this season, Neal finished with his best year since 2017. Dealing with injuries the last two years, Neal ended the 2020 season with 100 total tackles, two passes deflected, and one interception.
He’s been a nice compliment to rookie CB AJ Terrell, who still has the potential to be an elite player in the NFL. Bringing back Neal gives the Falcons a nice fill-in until they find someone better within the next year or so. Also, there is the chance that Neal can get back to being a pro-bowl caliber player since he is further removed from the injuries. This may not be the most important of all of the Atlanta Falcons team needs but could end up becoming bigger than most think if Neal can return to his previous form.
Re-sign Blidi Wreh-Wilson
This is one of the more underrated re-signs the Falcons should consider making. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is far from being elite, however, he’s a veteran player that brings great depth to this defense. Considering they may not be able to acquire many more cornerbacks this year, locking down Wreh-Wilson for one more season isn’t the worst idea. Depth is important in the NFL and is one of the Atlanta Falcons team needs.
Re-sign Youngho Koo
After having a rocky start to his NFL career, Youngho Koo finally seems to have settled in Atlanta for the time being. After finishing the year with a 94.9% success rate in field goals, and a 91.7% success rate in extra-point attempts, Koo became one of the best kickers in the NFL. At only 26 years old, Koo has plenty of playing time left, and he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. With Atlanta finishing the season in 16th in total points scored, Koo, will be a great asset for the Falcons’ future success. Koo should be considered a high priority on the Atlanta Falcons team needs list but may end up being a luxury they cannot afford.
Sign Kelechi Osemele
Like we said before, most of the Atlanta Falcons team needs will need to be filled through other means, but one free agent signing is possible. After suffering from injuries throughout most of the 2020 season, Kelechi Osemele will be aiming to get back on track next year. After allowing 41 sacks, the Dirty Birds ended in 22nd at protecting the QB. If this team wants to be successful, they’ll need to protect the QB much better. The offensive line is relatively young, and bringing in Osemele would bring veteran leadership, experience, and much-needed depth.
Atlanta Falcons Team Needs: Trade Predictions
Trade Julio Jones
Julio Jones has consistently been one of the best wide receivers in the league since joining the NFL in 2011. He’s had six consecutive years with at least 1,300 yards and would have done it again this year had he not gotten hurt. At the end of the day though, the Falcons are in total rebuild mode and will be looking to shop Jones for draft picks.
Jones will be 32 before the start of the next season, which puts him near the end of his prime. Not to mention, he also has a huge contract after the Falcons gave him a three-year deal worth $66 million, with $64 million guaranteed. Cutting him doesn’t make sense, as that will create roughly $38.5 million in dead cap space the team doesn’t want while adding to the list of Atlanta Falcons team needs.
Their best bet is to trade him, however, it’s going to be to a team with draft capital and the cap space to pick up his contract. A few teams I can see willing to make a trade are the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, or the Miami Dolphins. A trade would allow the Atlanta Falcons team needs list to be filled with more competent players than if they were to keep him. It might be a situation of taking a step back to take two steps forward, as bad as it might hurt many Falcons fans’ hearts.
Trade Matt Ryan
In comparison to Jones, trading away Matt Ryan may be a tougher sell. The reason being is that he’s already 35 years old and has a monster contract not many teams are wanting to take on. Although that’s true, Ryan still seems to have some juice left in the tank after putting up 4,581 passing yards and 26 touchdowns this year.
After seeing guys like Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady play well on new teams this season, another franchise may be willing to trade for Matt Ryan. It would likely be a team that feels they’re a QB away from being a serious contender next year. A few teams that may trade for Ryan are the Washington Football Team, San Francisco 49ers, or the New England Patriots.
Atlanta Falcons Team Needs: NFL Draft Predictions
Draft Zach Wilson
If Ryan is dealt, this one shoots to the top of the Atlanta Falcons team needs list. Zach Wilson is one of the top prospects for the 2021 draft and should be considered a top-ten pick. This is Atlanta’s chance to find Ryan’s replacement, as they may never find themselves in the top-ten again.
Wilson had a steller 2020 season after recording 3,692 yards through the air along with 33 touchdowns. With a 73.5 throwing percentage and only giving up three interceptions, Wilson was one of the more accurate passers in the NCAA this year. Atlanta would be a great landing spot for him, as Calvin Ridley is an elite WR, and even if Jones is traded, Olamide Zaccheaus has the potential to be a great WR2.
Draft a Pass Rusher and Safety
The Atlanta Falcons finished the season with only 29 sacks on the year, tying them as the ninth-worst in the league. Pass rusher is of high importance out of all of the Atlanta Falcons team needs, but they are very expensive. Luckily for them, this draft class is deep with pass rushers. So much so, they could find some elite talent in rounds two and three. Some edge rushers that could be available in the second and third rounds are Patrick Jones II, Quincy Roche, and Joe Tryon.
Additionally, the Falcons gave up 4,697 yards through the air, putting them dead last in pass defense. They could be looking at guys like Hamsah Nasirildeen, Ar’Darius Washington, and Caden Sterns. The importance of the safety position in terms of Atlanta Falcons team needs will be based in large part on whoever the new head coach and defensive coordinator will be.
Draft a Running Back
Last on the list of Atlanta Falcons team needs is a running back. Considering Todd Gurley has been a human roller coaster with his career, the Falcons should consider bringing in a rookie. Gurley is also hitting the free-agent market, and it’s likely Atlanta chooses to not bring him back. Brain Hill may be hitting free agency too, leaving Ito Smith as the starting RB in Atlanta.
Drafting a rookie would make a ton of sense, as whoever it is should nearly be receiving immediate action. The RB depth for the Falcons is weak, and this is a great opportunity for any prospect. There are three running backs Atlanta may have their eye on, and each of them could be drafted on day three. Some rookie prospects that could be a great fit are Jaret Patterson, Michael Carter, and Trey Sermon.
Thanks for reading my article on the Atlanta Falcons team needs. For more great content, follow me on Twitter @TalksVitale.