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Will Falcons add top talent to young secondary featuring A.J. Terrell? -- Falcons Breakdown

The Falcons could go big on a cornerback or add better depth and stick with starters they've got. 

The Falcons experienced a youth movement in defensive backfield. Only veterans Casey Hayward and Erik Harris had more than four years experience, with most major contributors still on rookie contracts.

That wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It provided an opportunity for Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins to establish themselves as a strong safety duo. It allowed A.J. Terrell to do his thing coming off a second-team All-Pro year. It allowed Dee Alford for fight for a roster spot and contributing role.


Isaiah Oliver spent part of the year recovering from an ACL tear the previous season and found solid form toward the end of the campaign.

Hayward's veteran presence was valued in a young group that had some talent but ultimately lacked depth. That was apparent after Hayward was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. The Falcons struggled to find an adequate replacement, trying Darren Hall and Cornell Armstrong and Alford at times without much success.

The Falcons need to find answers there, even with Hayward wanting to honor his contract and play at least one more season of a standout career in Atlanta. He's not a long-term solution and the Falcons have to find one, possibly with a high pick in the NFL draft.


2022 production

Top Cornerbacks

A.J. Terrell: 47 tackles | zero interceptions | one tackle for loss | nine passes defensed | zero forced fumbles | one fumble recovery

Darren Hall: 44 tackles | zero interceptions | one tackle for loss | three passes defensed | one forced fumble | one fumble recovery

Isaiah Oliver: 36 tackles | one sack | one interception | three tackles for loss | seven passes defensed | zero forced fumbles | zero fumble recoveries

Cornell Armstrong: 33 tackles | zero interceptions | zero tackles for loss | seven passes defensed | zero forced fumbles | zero fumble recoveries

Dee Alford: 25 tackles | one interception | one tackle for loss | seven passes defensed | zero forced fumbles | zero fumble recoveries

Casey Hayward: 17 tackles | one interception | zero tackles for loss | three passes defensed | zero forced fumbles | zero fumble recoveries

Top Safeties

Richie Grant: 122 tackles | two interceptions | six tackles for loss | seven passes defensed | one forced fumble | one fumble recovery

Jaylinn Hawkins: 82 tackles | two interceptions |zero tackles for loss | six passes defensed | one forced fumble |one fumble recovery

Who stays: Terrell, Hayward, Hall, Grant, Hawkins, Alford, Mike Ford

Most core members of the secondary are working on rookie contracts, meaning they're controllable for one more season at least. They have three secure starters in Terrell, Grant and Hawkins. They have depth with Hall and Alford that will benefit from significant snaps logged in 2022.

The Falcons are going to have to pay Terrell at some point soon – he's eligible for an extension starting this offseason – but they have two more seasons of control if they exercise his fifth-year option. This group will have a chance to grow together and could be pretty good if they continue to develop and improve over time, especially if another top young talent joins the crew.

They have Hayward back as well, so they can avoid pushing a new rookie into a major role right away. It's also smart to bring Mike Ford as a deep reserve and a leader on special teams.

On the chopping block: Oliver, Armstrong, Erik Harris, Jovante Moffatt

I put Oliver here because of his expiring contract. I think the Falcons should re-sign him, so much so that I wrote that very thing in our most recent Question of the Week. While he was a Dean Pees guy, that doesn't mean he can't function well as a slot cornerback under the next defensive coordinator.

Harris could add some veteran leadership on special teams and as a defensive reserve. Bringing him back isn't the worst idea, but the Falcons could go in a different direction if they so choose.

Biggest offseason question: Will the Falcons go big on a cornerback?

This isn't an area of pressing need, but cornerback is a premium position that must be addressed in the near future. Could they use and first- or second-round pick to add one. This draft class has lots of talent at the top of the position group.

Free agent corners aren't cheap, so that would require a hefty contract. Would they pay two cornerbacks top dollar? They're going to pay Terrell at some point. Take that to the bank. Going with another top vet would put lots of investment in one position group.

Or they could stick with Terrell, Hayward and Oliver, add cheaper veteran depth and kick the can down the road a bit while focusing on the defensive front and the offensive line.

Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos on offense from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.

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