Tag: eager

ATL News / Sports

Falcons: Multiple free agents are eager to return to Atlanta

The Falcons 2021 season has officially ended, and the first year under the Arthur Smith-Terry Fontenot regime went differently, depending on who you ask. Those who are optimistic will point to the seven wins, three more than last year, with a talent-deficient roster as an impressive feat. Those pessimists would point to the struggles against playoff-caliber teams, and overall underwhelming play as evidence of Smith not elevated the talent he’s been afforded.

Regardless of how you feel, the 2022 Falcons will likely look much different than the 2021 team. Fontenot signed a majority of team-friendly, one-year deals last spring because of the team’s standing with the salary cap. Some of those impending free agents will test the market, while others will return. The offense will have less turnover than the defense, but in terms of the percentage of snaps played, the Falcons’ top three receivers will all be hitting free agency.

Olamide Zaccheaus (57% of offensive snaps), Russell Gage (56%), and Tajae Sharpe (47%) are all set to hit the market; the trio accounts for nearly 80% of all snaps by receivers. In all, the Falcons offense has the eighth-lowest percentage of snaps coming from impending free agents. As I said, though, the defense will experience much more attrition. Atlanta’s defense leads the entire league in snaps coming from impending free agents.

The Falcons will have to replace Foye Oluokun’s 98% of all defensive snaps, Duron Harmon‘s 91%, Fabian Moreau‘s 88%, Erik Harris‘ 64%, Steven Means‘ 58%, and Dante Fowler‘s 44% — six defensive starters and a plethora of other rotational players will have to be replaced.

Some of those free agents will have a chance to return to Atlanta, but some won’t have that luxury. As far as the team’s perennial, impending free agents go, the Falcons will likely only target a handful of them due to salary cap restraints. However, that hasn’t stopped their top players from expressing their desire to play in Atlanta under Arthur Smith.

Arguably, the Falcons’ top four free agents all want to return to the team because of their head coach. Patterson specifically mentions how could a player not want to play for ‘Art’ while Gage and Oluokun said they’d give the Falcons the first chance to sign them. It is evident in how the players talk about their head coach that the culture being built is sustainable. Dan Quinn was a player-favorite, too, so that’s not all it can be; however, establishing his values is having a positive effect throughout the organization.

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