In a normal year, Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot would have a press conference at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL canceled the marquee offseason event, but Smith and Fontenot still held their press conference virtually where they discussed a number of topics.
Fontenot's response to a question about the position his team is in sparked a lot of intrigue. The Falcons hold the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft and the possibilities of what they could do are aplenty.
"There are so many different scenarios," Fontenot said. "There are going to be some really good players there at No. 4. We can move up, and we can move down and acquire more picks. There's just a lot of different scenarios to really go through. It's a prime spot to be in. It's not somewhere that we want to be in very often with this team, but we are going to take advantage of that and be open to all possibilities."
While acknowledging his team owns a pick that will be highly coveted, Fontenot also said picking in the top five is not a place he wants to be regularly. Atlanta finished the 2020 season with a 4-12 record and with the arrival of Fontenot and Smith, the duo is hoping to turn things around quickly.
This offseason will be imperative to doing such.
The moves the Falcons make in free agency and the draft will be especially critically given Fontenot said as of right now Atlanta has "over 50 percent of the roster to fill with where we are now so we have such a long way to go."
Several starters for Atlanta are set to become free agents on March 17 including Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Alex Mack and Todd Gurley. Fontenot and Smith have already begun making moves to clear cap space as they released veterans Ricardo Allen and Allen Bailey last week. According to Spotrac, the Falcons rank No. 28 in salary cap rankings and this could impact what the team is able to do from an acquisition standpoint.
Fontenot has been adamant in stating the importance of taking the best player available in the draft. He also acknowledged the attention the quarterbacks in this year's draft class are getting and what it could mean for the Falcons in terms of teams wanting to jump up to get one of the top quarterbacks.
And while there's a long way to go before any decisions will be made regarding the No. 4 overall pick, Fontenot and Smith understand they must nail free agency first and foremost.
"We're scouts, and we're going to have to go find players because you can't just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks," Fontenot said. "We've gotta really dig. We have to dig and find value in free agency and that's working with the coaches and finding out exactly what they need and going and finding the players they need."
General Manager Terry Fontenot takes his first tour of Atlanta Falcons facilities in Flowery Branch with Rich McKay.