After working together for one full season, the two have become a lot more familiar with each other, thus making them more efficient, according to Fontenot who joined Audacy’s 92.9 The Game on The Midday Show with Andy & Randy where he discussed the Falcons’ offseason.
“My relationship with myself and Arthur Smith…we’ve gotten to know each other really well,” Fontenot said on March 1. Sometimes you have to over-communicate with some things––now I know him well enough to know what he’s thinking. That just makes you more efficient. I think communication has been one of those things that has continued to improve and I feel really good about where we are at this point.”
But that doesn’t mean the job gets any easier for the GM-head coach duo. Similar to last offseason, Atlanta has a lot of decisions to make.
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Another Year, Another Salary Cap Mess to Fix
The Falcons currently sit at roughly $7.3 million (per, Spotrac) over an estimated salary cap total of $208 million, which means Fontenot and Smith will need to team up again to find ways to create more cap space.
These moves will look like restructuring contracts, making cuts and even trades, per Fontenot.
“We have [started the process] and I would say we are in a better position than we were last year, he said. “It’s improved and it will continue to improve as we move forward, but yes, we’re having several conversations whether we’re taking cuts, trades, extensions, restructures. We’re having several conversations about how we can manage the cap and open up some cap space so we can re-sign some of our players and look outside the building. We’re going to be patient in that process and make sure we’re going to be patient-selective, cost-effective.”
One of the player contracts they will have to take a good look at is Matt Ryan‘s.
Ryan is on tap to have a cap number of $48,662,500, the largest salary cap hit for a player in NFL history, per ESPN’s Field Yates.
When asked what are the chances Ryan plays for Atlanta in 2022 with that cap number, Fontenot left things open-ended.
“($48 Million) is obviously a big number, and it’s not Matt’s fault that that number is that big. We appreciate Matt and everything (since) he’s been here. We’re not going to talk specifically about our plans for any player on this roster… But, we have a lot of decisions we’re going to have to make this offseason.”
So, What’s the Sales Pitch?
Despite the salary cap “hell” Atlanta is still in, Fontenot isn’t worried about signing talent.
“We can find good players and we’re going to challenge our coaches and our scouts to find good players,” he said.
In order to find both good and affordable players during free agency Fontenot and his crew will have to sell themselves. But, how do you sell a 7-10 team that hasn’t seen a playoff birth in five-straight seasons?
“You look at Cordarelle Patterson and all of the success he’s had,” Fontenot explained his sales pitch. “He waited a month to sign, it was a month into free agency and he signed here and he chose this place. He’s constantly talked about how Atlanta is a great place to live and a great place to be and how there’s a good culture in this locker room, and he was obviously really successful. I think what that shows is, No. 1 he’s a great man with a great skill set and there’s a lot of players out there and so, we have a coaching staff that’s going to maximize players and get the most of them.”
After almost a decade in the league, the Falcons were the first team to figure out how to use Patterson to his best abilities in their offensive system, and by doing so, Patterson recorded a career-high of 607 rushing yards, 547 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
“So, I think you can point at that and show players, ‘hey this is a good place to come and be a part of this.'”