The Falcons took on the largest dead money cap hit in NFL history when they traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Colts in March and that move continued a trend of reshaping the roster that began when they hired General Manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith ahead of the 2021 season.
Making those moves helped put the team into better salary cap shape, but the Falcons finished 7-10 last season and predictions about the team’s fortunes for the coming season aren’t terribly optimistic. That’s led to talk of rebuilding that left tackle Jake Matthews and cornerback Casey Hayward have rejected this offseason.
While the veterans may not want to use that term, Smith didn’t reject it when talking to Albert Breer of SI.com about the state of the franchise although he was quick to mention that any rebuilding effort wouldn’t be seen as a reason for the team to accept a losing fate.
“I’ll never hide from something like that, and I’m not saying that with any bravado,” Smith said. “But yeah, certainly, you’re rebuilding every year in the NFL, that’s why you have a draft, why there’s free agency, you’re never just gonna run it back as it was. If you’re not forward-thinking, if you’re not constantly looking to tweak and improve, you’ll get passed up. That’s what we don’t want to have ever happen. So yeah, sure, you can call it whatever you want, you really need to retool or rebuild every year in certain spots. Now, is there some major transition? Yeah, you can make that argument. I think it’s obvious. But this team’s gonna come out, they’re gonna compete like hell, they’re gonna fight, we’ve got good young pieces, and we’re gonna play well together in all three phases as a team. I’m excited about it. This is gonna be a fun team to coach.”
Smith added that he knows the team will “need results in some way, shape or form to have that buy-in” from players and said he thought there was progress last year despite the record. They’ll need more of it this year to convince others that the plan is one that will result in the kind of on-field success that makes quibbling about whether you’re rebuilding a distant memory.