In the first offseason of the Falcons’ new regime, Terry Fontenot had some free agency splash, and there’s a reason for that. Fontenot and Arthur Smith are settling into their new roles, which for Fontenot include assessing current and future talent, building communication and trust, building high-level staff, and creating alignment of stakeholders, i.e. the development of a new culture.
Talent assessment is essential to learning a new organization, and avoiding shortcuts by relying on word of mouth is essential. A full and comprehensive roster assessment can be helpful in analyzing current talent and developing a long-term plan. First-year general managers and head coaches must be adept at judging and maneuvering current and future players.
Fontenot is not only responsible for putting together the best possible roster for Smith, but he also assembles an organization’s entire machine as he sees fit. With so many different moving parts, it would have been foolish to sign expensive multi-year deals with free agents this year. Instead, it made sense to sign a plethora of one-year deals.
Fontenot had several things against him this offseason, including a lack of roster talent and a salary cap mess. He must have saved money while trying to improve the staff. He started by cutting the fat off the list, cutting Ricardo Allen, James Carpenter and Allen Bailey. Then he immediately signed a flurry of veterans on one-year contracts – Brandon Copeland, Erik Harris, Barkevious Mingo, Fabian Moreau and Mike Davis (the only multi-year contract awarded this offseason).
Additionally, Fontenot would go on to sign Josh Andrews, Steven Means, Jonathan Bullard, Duron Harmon, Cordarrelle Patterson and AJ McCarron on one-year contracts to complete most of the roster. Obviously I’m missing a few one-year contracts, given that Fontenot has to fill out a list of 90 men, but these are the ones that will most likely make the 53 men.
Completing the roster to fill as many holes as possible before the NFL Draft is a strategy that allows Fontenot to take the best player on his big board regardless of his position. In the coming years, his strategy will surely change. As the roster reaches striking distance of a Super Bowl, Fontenot will sign more lucrative deals with free agents instead of provisional players. The Falcons timeline right now justifies these cheap one-year deals, as Atlanta isn’t close to competing for a Super Bowl. Expect a steady increase in the allocation of funds to free agency as we progress through Fontenot’s tenure.