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Question of the Week: What has been the most interesting free agency move?

The Falcons have brought in five new players since the new league year began last Wednesday.

DISCLAIMER: The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — A week has passed since the 2024 NFL free agency market opened, and the Atlanta Falcons have done some bargaining and shopping.

Four outside free agents have signed with the Falcons: quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Charlie Woerner, wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Ray-Ray McCloud. And a trade was made between the Falcons and Arizona Cardinals, swapping out former Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder for wide receiver Rondale Moore.

That cues up the latest Question of the Week, which is: What has been the Falcons' most interesting move since free agency officially began last Wednesday? The editorial staff of Tori McElhaney, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan answer below.


McELHANEY: I think the expectation was always that the Falcons would load up and spend money in free agency on wide receivers. Heck, they had to. They only had Drake London in the room after all. I guess I was most intrigued by the way they did it, though. I can explain in two ways:

1) The Falcons made a point to get multiple receivers in free agency, not just one or two. They essentially restocked the whole room in a matter of a couple days. As mentioned in the lede of this article, the Falcons acquired Mooney, McCloud and Moore over the last week. They also brought back 2023 receiver KhaDarel Hodge. Outside of the Cousins deal, the Falcons saw fit to use a lot of the remaining cap space on pass-catchers. They prioritized this position over all others (save the quarterback) in free agency. This is a stark contrast to their defense-first mindset last offseason.

2) The Falcons made a point to get receivers with a specific build that showcased a specific compactness and speed. All three of the new receivers are under six feet tall. They also ran a sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash in their respective combine appearances. It's this notion that truly depicts the differences between the physique of former receivers the Falcons acquired in Arthur Smith's offensive scheme and that of Zac Robinson's. And it's not just noticeable but note-worthy. It's this move away from prioritizing sheer height and length to speed and stealth that was one of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Falcons' 2024 free agency moves.

WAACK: All of the Falcons' free agency acquisitions have one thing in common: They're offensive weapons. That speaks volumes to what the Falcons brass thinks about the state of the defense. It's screaming strong – and rightly so.

The Falcons defensive unit made strides in multiple statistical categories last year. It went from 23rd in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed in 2022 to 18th and 11th, respectively. It also improved in passing (25th to eighth) and rushing (23rd to 20th) yards allowed. And it jumped from 31st in third-down conversion rate to third and 14th in red-zone conversion rate to fourth.

That could easily be chalked up to the fact the Falcons made important defensive additions in free agency a year ago, signing big names such as safety Jessie Bates III, defensive tackle David Onyemata and inside linebacker Kaden Elliss. Bates earned his first Pro Bowl recognition out of last season. Onyemata had a career-high 50 tackles to go along with two forced fumbles, three pass breakups and four sacks. Elliss made a team-high 11 tackles for loss, with four sacks.

Atlanta did its due diligence with the defense in 2023, and now it's doing so with the offense in 2024.

What will be interesting to see is whether the Falcons bring back more of last season's roster that's available right now. Defensive end Calais Campbell, outside linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive tackle Albert Huggins, for example, are currently free agents. The Falcons have already signed inside linebacker Nate Landman and defensive end Kentavius Street for at least another year. But are negotiations in works for the others? Because it would appear that the external search has been focused on the offense. Internal, however, remains fair game.

SUBHAN: Just hours into the legal tampering period last week, the Falcons agreed to terms with Cousins.

While that wasn't a huge surprise based on the reporting from the last few days and figurative writing on the wall, it was, however, eye-opening how it happened.

Cousins reportedly signed a $180 million — $100 million guaranteed — deal coming off an Achilles tear he surgically repaired less than five months ago. Meaning, the Falcons hold a lot of faith in his recovery and, more so, his 12-year veteran experience.

Atlanta had a lot of flexibility to figure out its quarterback question with cap space, pieces to make a trade and the No. 8 overall draft pick. The Falcons had the option to draft a quarterback in a deep class and give that signal-caller a chance to grow under a new head coaching staff including Robinson, a first-time offensive coordinator.

Ultimately, the Falcons prioritized getting Cousins and the stability that he brings.

The move also points to just how confident they are in their ability to win now. Throughout the offseason, leadership from Arthur Blank to Terry Fontenot to Raheem Morris have hinted at their expectation for the Falcons' imminent upward trajectory.

Two weeks before at the NFL Combine, Morris clearly said, "I'm not afraid to say we have the ability, and we are capable to go out and win next year. If we do some of the right things, some of the right moves, we can do that."

The Falcons weren't afraid to cement that by choosing Cousins as their guy to win now. Now, they've just got to go out and prove it.

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