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Atlanta Falcons Poor Offseason According to ESPN

The Atlanta Falcons have had one of the busiest offseasons in the NFL by any measure. They could have at least 10-new starters on offense and defense in 2023.

They’re being talked about as contenders in a watered-down NFC South.

But according to Bill Barnwell on ESPN+, the Falcons have had one of the worst offseasons in the league.

In an article on ESPN+, Barnwell puts in reverse order the teams with the worst offseasons. He had the Falcons checking in at No. 26 on his list… or the seventh-worst offseason in the NFL. Only the Titans, Rams, Raiders, Giants, Lions, and Buccaneers have been worse than the Falcons according to Barnwell.

Most of these preseason lists have come down to the quarterback position and the lack of faith in Desmond Ridder (we’ll get to that). However, Barnwell first writes of the lack of long-term investment on the defense despite the money spent.

Is this a long-term solution? The Falcons are better on defense, but you could take issue with some of the choices they made. Bates is a great player in the prime of his career, but can you say that about anybody else in that list above? Campbell is a legend, but he’s 36. Onyemata and Dupree are 30, and the latter missed some or all of 15 games over his two disappointing seasons in Tennessee. Elliss had played 196 defensive snaps before a seven-sack season a year ago. Hughes and Okudah are joining from Detroit, which just fielded the worst pass defense in football and decided to overhaul its secondary.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN+

So, the Falcons immediately got better on defense with veterans that can help right away, without making long-term financial commitments to them.

What’s the problem again?

The Atlanta Falcons are in dire need of a winning season. They haven’t had one since 2017. The players they brought in on short-term, prove-it deals like Okudah are low risk and high reward.

Those are the kinds of moves I like a general manager to make.

Obviously, let’s not forget about Ridder.

Speaking of Ridder, the Falcons didn’t bring in significant competition for their young quarterback, with Taylor Heinicke joining from Washington to serve as the backup. Has Ridder, a third-round pick in 2022, earned that sort of free path toward the starting role? He started four games last season, one of which came against the Saints, where he threw the ball 26 times … for 97 yards.

Bill Barnwell, ESPN+

The game against the Saints that Barnwell references was Ridder’s first time seeing action in an NFL game. Rookie Struggles in First Start… now there’s a shocking headline.

Ridder’s rating improved in each of his final three starts. He had a 94.4 quarterback rating in those games. A 94.4 would have put him ahead of the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, Derek Carr, Kyler Murray and more…

Barnwell highlights the competition Ridder played against in those four games, and it’s a fair point. But to say the Falcons didn’t bring in significant competition for Ridder is hypocritical on Barnwell’s part?


He has this to say of the Colts signing of Gardner Minshew in the offseason.

“Gardner Minshew is also one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks, leaving the Colts some hope if Richardson struggles to adapt as a rookie,” wrote Barnwell.

Taylor Heinicke has started more games than Minshew, has a significantly higher winning percentage (.500 vs. .333), and had a higher quarterback rating last season (89.6 vs. 83.4).

Heinicke started for the Washington Commanders while Minshew was 0-2 for a Philadelphia Eagles team that went 14-3 for goodness sake.

How good of a backup quarterback can Minshew be relative to Heinicke if he can’t even get a win with a team that won 14 of 15 without him?

At the end of the day the Falcons’ offseason will be judged on how much they improve from their back to back seven-win seasons.

A seven-win team with the seventh-worst offseason should go backwards, no?

We’re betting the Falcons win total improves in 2023, and when it does, can the Falcons offseason really have been that bad?

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at Scout.com, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.