Legendary NFL writer and media personality Peter King has released his first NFL Power Ranking for the 2022 season, and he’s not particularly high on the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons check in at No. 30 with only the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans below them. The Falcons finished 7-10 last season with a schedule easy enough to give them the tie breaker in the NFL Draft over three other teams who finished with the same record.
“The first non-Matt Ryan season since 2007 should be entertaining to watch,” writes King on ProFootballTalk. “Marcus Mariota will start, then Desmond Ridder will play at some point unless Mariota is uncharacteristically efficient. And there are some interesting pieces to see: tight end Kyle Pitts, rookie wideout Drake London and a pass-rusher who had a late hot streak pre-draft, Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie. I like the Falcons ripping off the Matt Ryan bandaid this year and taking the $40-million dead-cap pain, leaving them currently with $41-million in cap room next year when, theoretically, they’ll be able to address quality roster depth. Some years you build, and this is one of those years for Atlanta.”
No one in Flowery Branch will use the term “re-build”, but eating Ryan’s salary-cap hit this year will accelerate the re-building process in 2023. King mentions $41-million in cap space next season, but it will likely be double that.
Jake Matthews has a $33-million cap hit that will likely be restructured. Deion Jones is likely to be moved after June 1st of this season, cutting his cap number from $18-million to $12-million in 2023. Mariota’s number could go from $14.5-million to just $2.5 million if the Falcons don’t retain him.
And Calvin Ridley is on the books for $11.1-million.
But that’s 2023.
For 2022, the Falcons still have major questions in the trenches, questions at both safety positions, quarterback, edge, and wide receiver.
30 in the power rankings isn’t out of the question, though I’d still take the Falcons over the Jaguars until proven otherwise. Dan Hanzus of NFL.com has the Falcons No. 29, the same position as the ESPN Power Index.
There are reasons to be optimistic about the Falcons future, but 2022 is likely to get worse before it can get better in 2023 and escaping from salary-cap hell.
We discuss King’s rankings with much more analysis on this week’s Forging the Falcons