ADAMSVILLE GYM Posted March 2, 2021 Share Posted March 2, 2021 Not once did the Falcons trade back in the first round of the past 13 NFL drafts. It just wasn’t a preferred philosophy from former general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who tended to hone on his preferred pick and either make it at the slotted position or trade up to ensure he took the player he coveted. But with new general manager Terry Fontenot leading the charge in an unforeseen offseason from a salary cap standpoint, perhaps that approach changes this year. The case for trading back is strong due to the lower 2021 salary cap and the lack of players the Falcons have under contract at the present time. If the Falcons can accrue more picks, the better off they may be. Although Fontenot would rather have a healthy mix of free agents and the draft to fix the team’s issues, he may not be able to have it his preferred way in Year 1. “You have to have a balance,” Fontenot said. “You want to make decisions that are going to help you as much as possible this year but you also have to think about future years and think about 2022, 2023, and think big picture.” In addition to the 13 drafts under Dimitroff, the last time the Falcons moved back in the first round came in 2002, when the franchise sent the 17th pick to the Oakland Raiders for the 18th selection and a fifth-rounder. The 18th pick became running back T.J. Duckett and the fifth-rounder was quarterback Kurt Kittner. As it presently stands, the Falcons have six draft selections -- a pick each in the first six rounds -- and are likely to end up with three compensatory picks after losing tight end Austin Hooper, defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell to free agency in 2020. The Falcons are also in a position where they are $20.2 million over what has been projected, to date, to be a $180 million salary cap. That figure isn’t expected to rise above $185 million. The Falcons also have only 39 players under contract, with six players -- quarterback Matt Ryan ($40.9 million), receiver Julio Jones ($23.1 million), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett ($20.8 million), left tackle Jake Matthews ($20.2 million), defensive end Dante Fowler ($18.5 million) and linebacker Deion Jones ($12.6 million) -- accounting for a staggering $136.2 million in cap space for the 2021 season. Obviously, the previous regime, and everyone for that matter, could not have accounted for a once-a-century pandemic to occur, which reduced league revenue and subsequently reduced the salary cap 2021. When planning for future seasons, it’s typically done with the thought the salary cap will increase. In 2020, the cap was $198.2 million. Due to circumstances out of their control, the Falcons now have to figure out how to cut additional salaries while filling out the roster. The answer may lie in the draft more so this year than before. At the fourth overall spot, which Fontenot called “prime” numerous times during his recent meeting with local reporters, the Falcons figure to have a number of opportunities to trade back and add to their expected nine picks. With this being a draft seemingly having a plethora of upper-tier quarterbacks, the Falcons could be in a spot to trade the fourth overall pick to a team that needs a quarterback, while still having the chance to take Ryan’s eventual successor a little while later in the first round. “It’s kind of unique and uncommon this year with all of the discussion about the possible trades at the quarterback position,” Fontenot said. “That’s one of those things unless you’re in a specific building, you don’t really know that specific situation, and it’s tough to really comment on what’s going on in those areas, but all we can do is really assess it, assess the market. It’s unique what’s going on at that position. But I think that makes it even more prime.” Fontenot has stressed both the goal of winning now and maintaining the health of the franchise for future seasons. If he can turn nine picks into 12, or maybe even more thanks to the team’s draft position, then he will fill out a roster for the short term while relying on talented veterans like Ryan, Jones, Jarrett and Matthews. Down the line, however, the Falcons will need to be competitive in free agency. It just doesn’t look like 2021 will be the year the Falcons will be able to enter bidding wars with premier players looking for new destinations. Relying on such an influx of youth is a risk since the Falcons have needs at positions such as defensive end and safety, which would be better served through free agency. But with enough offensive firepower on the perimeter, the Falcons should still compete with most teams when in a shootout. And having those weapons could be enough for the new front office when it comes to how it addresses the roster in the short term. “We want to be as competitive as possible now but we also want to keep the future in mind and make sure we have sustained success,” Fontenot said. “That’s the goal here.” By Jason Butt, For the AJC Sponge, wnyfalconfan, slick0ne and 2 others 5 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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