Offseason Team Previews

2022 Atlanta Falcons Offseason Preview

by Kyle Dvorchak
Updated On: March 14, 2022, 1:09 pm ET

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The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s for all of the useful stats they track and house. 

Falcons 2021 Recap

The Falcons were at a crossroads heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. They were in a position to snag Matt Ryan’s successor but the former MVP still had plenty of juice. Temptation struck GM Terry Fontenot and the team took Kyle Pitts instead. Knowing full well that his defense would be picked apart by competent offenses, Fontenot gambled on building an elite offense to hang with the league’s best. Instead, Pitts earned mixed reviews as a rookie and Calvin Ridley left the team to tend to his mental health. With no offense to speak of, the Falcons were a punching bag for playoff teams, losing to every postseason-bound squad they faced. Now, they’re in almost the exact same position as they were last year.

Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 18.4 (26th)
  • Dropback EPA: -.03 (25th)
  • Passing yards per game: 218 (16th)
  • Rush EPA: -.17 (30th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 85 (31st)


First-year head coach Arthur Smith was treading water with Ridley in the lineup. The offense averaged 21.6 points and 327 yards per game in his five appearances. From Week 8 onward, the Falcons fell to 276 yards and 16.2 points weekly. The running game, which was a staple of Smith’s Tennessee teams, was entirely absent. As it turns out, Mike Davis was not able to replicate the production of Derrick Henry. That didn’t stop Smith from giving Davis eight carries (and another three targets) per game. The lone bright spot of the ground game was Cordarrelle Patterson. The long-time kick returner and part-time receiver was given some reps at running back in training camp and carried that role into the regular season. He excelled with the abnormal amount of carries, finishing top-20 in NextGen Stats' rushing yards over expectation model while seeing eight or more defenders in the box at the sixth-highest rate. 

Key Defensive Stats

  • Points per game: 27 (23rd)
  • Dropback EPA: .19 (29th)
  • Passing yards per game: 233 (18th)
  • Rush EPA: -.07 (19th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 132 (27th)


As has been the norm in recent years, the Falcons struggled on defense. They finished 30th in points per drive and 25th in EPA per play. There were few bright spots to be found on the roster. No Atlanta player earned a Pro Bowl nod, though their star corner’s exclusion was puzzling. A.J. Terrell, the aforementioned cornerback, was the only defenseman on the team worth highlighting. The second-year corner allowed 4.8 yards per target while intercepting three passes. He was also ranked as Pro Football Focus’s No. 2 cornerback. The 2021 season made him their de facto building block on defense.

Falcons 2022 Offseason



Cap Space

-$7.3 million

First Pick

No. 8

Total Draft Value


Notable Free Agents

RB Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Russell Gage, MLB Foyesade Oluokun, CB Fabian Moreau, FS Erik Harris, S Duron Harmon, CB Isaiah Oliver, DE Steven Means, TE Hayden Hurst, K Younghoe Koo

Cut Candidates

DT Grady Jarrett ($16.5 million in savings), DT Tyeler Davison ($3.7 million), CB Kendall Sheffield ($2.5 million), RB Mike Davis ($2.5 million)

Notes: Atlanta's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.

Ryan's contract has a $48.6 million cap hit in 2022. The Falcons can reduce that number by extending him, which they've done in the past, but that only kicks the can down the road. Atlanta can also gain $11.1 million in cap space by trading Ridley. Moving on from Ridley would all but solidify them as a rebuilding team. 

Team Needs

Outside Linebacker
The Falcons’ toothless pass-rush was a huge reason for their defensive struggles. Atlanta recorded the seventh-fewest sacks in a season since 2000 despite being given an extra game. The team just moved on from OLB Dante Fowler after a disappointing two years and will need to replace him with someone who can make an instant difference.

Defensive Tackle
Atlanta needs to revamp their entire pass-rush. If both Jarrett and Davison are cut, the team will be drawing from a pool of two fifth-round picks over the previous three years to find replacements. This won’t be a one-year project but it has to start now.

Wide Receiver
With Ridley now suspended through at least the 2022 season, Atlanta's WR1-5 from last year are either suspended, free agents, or restricted free agents. Practice squad players including Frank Darby and Chad Hansen are their highest-paid receivers before the start of free agency. As things stand right now, this is the worst receiving room in the league.

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Coaching Changes

The Falcons only made one notable change to their staff. Running backs coach Desmond Kitchings left and was replaced by Chicago's Michael Pitre. With Davis flopping in 2021 and Patterson a free agent, the backfield was in flux regardless of coaching. 

Looking at their head coach, Smith came from a team with one of the most physically gifted running backs of the past decade and an elite top receiver. He was given neither of those in Atlanta and looked lost. Smith was unable to make Kyle Pitts, a 6’7, 245-pound beast who runs a 4.49 forty-yard dash, a factor in the red zone, leading to the rookie scoring just once. He also dialed back his use of play-action compared to his Tennessee days. Smith’s future with the Falcons rests on his ability to make do with what he has in Atlanta. If he can’t prove that he was more than the beneficiary of a talented squad in Tennessee, Fontenot could clean house at the end of 2022.

Offseason Outlook

The Falcons are in an awful spot this offseason. They are unable to get out from under Ryan’s contract so they’re forced to run it back for another year. However, the loss of Ridley means they have less of a chance at fielding on offense that can at least propel them to some shootout wins. Now they are forced to choose between retooling the offense or getting their defense to an acceptable place. With the seventh-lowest cap space and no extra picks, it's unlikely that they can accomplish both. With Tom Brady back in the NFC South, Atlanta's hopes of running the table in a weak division are also dashed. At this point, the Falcons should be looking to trade as many of their vets for future picks as possible. It's already time to position for the 2023 season.