One day before the start of free agency on March 16, the Atlanta Falcons tendered wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus at the right-of-first-refusal number of $2.433 million, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
To be clear, this means that the team will have the right to match any offer Zaccheaus receives from any other team, beginning on Wednesday.
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Zacchaeus Logged His Best Season Yet in 2021
Zaccheaus joined the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia in 2019. He finished his rookie year with three receptions for 115 yards and a score. He also added two tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown on special teams.
With the absence of Julio Jones, Zaccheaus saw his production increase in 2020 when he recorded had his first 100-yard game. Playing in 11 games, he had 20 receptions for 274 yards and one touchdown.
2021 was Zaccheaus’ best season yet as he logged career-highs of 31 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
With Calvin Ridley suspended for at least a year, Russell Gage headed to Tampa to join the Buccaneers and Tajae Sharpe set to hit the open market, Zaccaheaus currently sits as a starter on the Falcons’ wide receiver depth chart.
The only other receivers under contract in Atlanta are Frank Darby, Chad Hansen and Austin Trammell, so expect Atlanta to make some moves for receivers in free agency and in the upcoming draft.
Darby Is Motivated More than Ever
While Ridley’s absence hurt the Falcons as a whole, Darby, personally, ended up benefiting from his early exit.
He received more snaps in practice, thus getting more looks from coaches and some one-on-one time with quarterback Matt Ryan.
“I learn so much from him,” Darby recently told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. “He pulled me over to the side, and he’s like do this, this and that. Yeah, you see it on paper, but when it’s on the field, it’s different.”
He also told Rothstein that Ryan went out of his way to tell him, “Frank, you’re doing a hell of a job,” which instilled a boost of confidence in the former sixth-rounder.
Darby saw action in 10 games (0 starts) last season and recorded just one reception for 14 yards. However, his limited playing time didn’t bother him––instead, it motivated him to do better.
“My whole motive was just keep working hard and someone will notice it,” Darby said. “I took each and every day like I’m always happy. I’m happy to be here, so why would I come in here with a bad attitude and everything and not go out there and perform how I’m supposed to perform?”
Atlanta’s former wideout coach, Dave Brock, was also in Darby’s ear helping him adjust to the NFL last season, however, the Falcons have since moved on from Brock.
“[Falcons receivers] coach [Dave] Brock explained to me that there’s people you probably won’t even know that’s decision-makers that’s out there. You don’t even know ‘em, Frank,” Darby said. “It was just like once he said to me, ‘Frank, be on top of your game every day. Go out there and do everything that you need to do at a high level and sooner or later your name will be called and you just got to be ready to go.’”
Whether or not Darby’s name is called this season remains to be seen, but it sounds like it was all a part of Atlanta’s re-building game plan to get him ready to be a legitimate starter.