More roster moves could be coming in the next few days. But the Atlanta Falcons have finalized their first 53-player roster for the 2023 season.
One of the biggest decisions facing the Falcons coaching staff heading into Tuesday’s deadline was whether to keep third quarterback Logan Woodside. But there were several other key roster choices too.
Here are the top five takeaways from Atlanta’s roster decisions on Tuesday:
QB Logan Woodside Makes the Roster as Third QB
Arthur Smith’s decision to sit the Falcons starters for most of the preseason paid off for Woodside. He completed 42 of 60 pass attempts for 400 yards during the preseason.
With those performances, Woodside didn’t play his way off the roster. But multiple analysts predicted that whether he made the roster was going to depend on players at other positions.
Woodside on the roster means the Falcons can take advantage of the NFL’s new quarterback rule. Teams will be permitted to dress a third signal caller on game days without having him count toward one of the 46 active players.
Falcons Only Keep 5 Wide Receivers
Another offensive position the Atlanta coaching staff faced difficult decisions at was wide receiver. Drake London, Mack Hollins, and Scotty Miller were locks to make the roster. Although he suffered an injury during the preseason, KhaDarel Hodge was likely to make the team too.
The Falcons chose to round out the position with only one other receiver — Josh Ali. That means Atlanta cut veteran wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Penny Hart and Zay Malone.
Arcega-Whiteside is a former second-round pick who played well in the final two preseason games. Malone also looked great in the exhibition games. But wanting more depth at other positions, the Falcons elected to only keep Ali as a fifth receiver.
Falcons Cut Timmy Horne, Keep Joe Gaziano & Albert Huggins
Defensive tackle Timmy Horne was another player who looked good at times during the preseason. But instead of the second-year defensive lineman, the Falcons chose to keep veterans Joe Gaziano and Albert Huggins.
Gaziano played five games for the Los Angeles Chargers last season, recording 8 combined tackles, 1 quarterback hit and 1 sack. Huggins posted 16 combined tackles in nine games for the New Orleans Saints in 2022.
Huggins has been in the NFL since 2019 while Gaziano entered the league in 2020. They will be part of a very experienced defensive line for the Falcons.
Atlanta’s only defensive player up front who isn’t at least entering his third NFL season is third-round rookie Zach Harrison.
Cornerbacks Darren Hall, Breon Borders, Natrone Brooks Among Cuts
The Falcons cornerbacks struggled in the final preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The performance may have cost at least a couple of them jobs.
Atlanta elected not to keep suspended Breon Borders despite the ability to move him off the active roster for another player for the first two weeks. Borders must serve a PED suspension to begin the 2023 season.
The Falcons also released 2021 fourth-round pick Darren Hall and undrafted free agent Natrone Brooks. Hall started nine games for Atlanta in 2022 and posted 45 combined tackles with 3 pass defenses in 17 contests overall last season.
WR Zay Malone, RB Godwin Igwebuike Top Practice Squad Candidates
The Falcons had to release some good players on Tuesday. But the hope is some of them will clear waivers and agree to join the Atlanta practice squad.
Malone and Igwebuike were each standouts during the preseason schedule. Malone led the team with 50 receiving yards in the first preseason matchup.
Igwebuike led the Falcons in rushing yards in two of the three preseason games. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Arcega-Whiteside, Brooks, and Horne are other candidates to sign with the team’s practice squad. Inside linebacker Mike Jones Jr., full back Clint Ratkovich and tight end Parker Hesse are other possibilities.