Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot took on a tough job when he started two years ago.
The Falcons had an aging roster coming off three-straight losing seasons and were strapped with bad contracts that were described as “salary cap hell” by the national media.
Individual moves can be critiqued, but the Falcons have won more games than expected each of the last two seasons despite having to clear salary just to be able to sign their draft classes.
After making the bold move to take their medicine on Matt Ryan’s contract last year and eat a record-$41 million in dead-cap money, Fontenot and the Falcons have done an excellent job of convincing highly-prioritized free agents to come to Atlanta.
Safety Jessie Bates and defensive linemen David Onyemata and Calais Campbell had their choice of destinations, but will help rejuvenate a defense that has been low on talent in recent years.
That said, the national media is fixated on Fontenot’s unwillingness or inability to give up multiple first-round draft picks and $200+ million in guaranteed money in pursuit of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal dings Fontenot and the Falcons for pouring available resources around second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder. Rosenthal has Fontenot ranked 21st out of 25-eligible general managers in his annual GM Power Rankings column.
After two seasons of cleaning up the last regime’s mess, it’s go time for Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith. They spent huge money to retain two pieces on an offensive line that improved as a run-blocking unit in 2022. Fontenot has used the team’s ample cap space to sign or trade for a lot of veterans like Jessie Bates, Jonnu Smith, Calais Campbell, Jeff Okudah, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss and Mack Hollins, most of whom will start.Gregg Rosenthan, NFL.com
Atlanta is the most confounding team to avoid Lamar Jackson, but that decision is certainly not only up to Fontenot.
Winning more games than expected despite unprecedented salary cap problems. Fixing those problems. Adding six or seven starters in free agency or trades. Maintaining salary cap flexibility for the coming years. Drafting multiple starters including two franchise record holders in Kyle Pitts and Tyler Allgeier…
But you didn’t go after a quarterback who might not even be available.
Sometimes the national media fixates on the national story. Lamar Jackson is a national story.
By any account, Terry Fontenot has done an excellent job his first two seasons with the Falcons. It’s impossible to say Atlanta isn’t in much better position than they were when he took over.
Now that he’s helped the Falcons navigate out of salary-cap hell, the pressure will be on to turn a scrappy, overachieving band of castoffs into a playoff team.
He finally had the resources to do just that in 2023.
Power rankings won’t win a single game in 2023, but the recognition Fontenot deserves will come as the Falcons take the next step in their rebuild.