The Atlanta Falcons have been one of the most active teams in free agency. They have invested a lot of money into the spine of their defense with defensive tackle David Onyemata, linebacker Kaden Elliss, and safety Jessie Bates.
They’ve improved their quarterback room with the addition of Taylor Heinicke.
Even the harshest critic would have trouble looking at this Falcons’ team and think they haven’t significantly improved their roster the last two weeks.
So where did Dan Hanzus move the Atlanta Falcons in his “updated” NFL Power Rankings, post free agency?
The Falcons remain 27th on his list with no change.
That in itself is a bit odd, but Hanzus, with limited space to write on each team to be fair, seems fixated on the quarterback position.
The Falcons don’t appear interested in getting into business with Lamar Jackson. Though they’re not alone, it remains surprising to see Atlanta seemingly dismiss basic interest in a former MVP who could finally make Arthur Smith’s offense go. Speaking of Smith, 2023 will be a pivotal season for the third-year head coach, who could need a trip to the playoffs to justify his continued existence on the Falcons’ sideline. For now, it appears Smith will put his trust in Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick last year who showed some ability in a late-season audition. The team seemed to double down on its faith in Ridder with the signing of former Commanders starter Taylor Heinicke, who is unlikely to wrest the top job away from the kid this summer. — Dan Hanzus, NFL.com
OK, so the Falcons have questions at quarterback. Ridder played competently as a rookie and expectations should be tempered heading into 2023.
But Jessie Bates alone was considered one of the most impactful free agents by Hanzus’ NFL.com colleague Cynthia Frelund. She projected Bates to add more than a full win by himself with her analytics modeling.
Onyemata is a massive upgrade on the likes of Matt Dickerson in the trenches. Elliss flashed brilliance with the Saints with seven sacks in 11 games, and Hughes is a solid pro who will add depth to the secondary at worst.
That’s just the defense…
The Falcons may not be any better in 2023. No one wins the Super Bowl in April.
But Hanzus’ fixation on Arthur Smith’s decision to stick with Ridder while ignoring the other moves the Falcons have made is a bit… bizarre.