LAS VEGAS – The Falcons wrapped up their last Shrine Bowl practice on Tuesday at the Raiders' Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center before Thursday's game at Allegiant Stadium. The opportunity to coach in a bowl game like this provides Atlanta's coaching staff, scouts and GM Terry Fontenot the access to really learn more about and evaluate college football's elite up close, which is key as the 2023 NFL Draft nears.
"It's a touchpoint with the players and again, the access that we have and time that we get to spend with them here," Fontenot said during East team practice. "You get really really valuable information, so it makes a huge difference."
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This is a significant Falcons offseason for a few reasons. Quarterback position remains a looming topic, Atlanta is projected to have the second-most cap space in 2023, which will allow them to add much-needed depth in key positions. And several players on the Falcons' roster were on one-year contracts in 2022.
Even with more cap space in 2023 than in recent memory, the approach entering this busy period remains the same for Fontenot and the Falcons.
"I think every offseason is pivotal," Fontenot said. "I think every day you come in the building is pivotal. The first offseason we had here was critical and, obviously, we had a different level of resources the first year, second year and now this year. Yet, you have to look at every offseason [like this]. That is critical and you're going to do the best you can to improve this football team."
Fontenot mentioned that the Falcons are in the process of self-evaluating the roster and that it's an ongoing process.
"Really quickly here, we're going to be getting into free agency and into our draft meetings," Fontenot said, "so we're going through it while we do everything else."
Regarding signing players to one-year contracts, Fontenot said the Falcons will continue to make that a practice because that's something valuable to do. He said that the organization will always focus on the makeup and culture, and that bringing the right players in the building is vital.
"Just because you have more cap space, the process doesn't change," Fontenot said. "We still evaluate all the players, and there are going to be some players that you want to bring in on one-year deals and some players that you'll have more multi-year deals, but we have to make sure we know exactly who they are as human beings and who we're bringing into this building."
When asked about the quarterback position, Fontenot said it's like any other position on the roster. The Falcons want to bring in good players and develop who's already in their program, while adding healthy competition.
With the newly minted acquisition of defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, Fontenot says Nielsen has a clear-cut plan on how the defense will operate heading into the 2023 season.
"Whether we're talking about the backend, the interior, the edge, he has a clear plan for how we want to continue to build this team, but we're going to always prioritize the front," Fontenot said. "We just talked about the trenches. That's where games are won and lost."
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.