Falcons are in need of more than just a quarterback

The team also needs wide receivers, defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties
Falcons coach Raheem Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot share a laugh while responding to a question during Monday's introductory press conference.

Credit: Jason Getz/Jason.getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz/Jason.getz@ajc.com

Falcons coach Raheem Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot share a laugh while responding to a question during Monday's introductory press conference.

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s no question that the Falcons need to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason.

However, much more is needed for them to return to elite status in the NFL after six consecutive losing seasons.

“I wouldn’t look at any position and say that we won’t add to that position,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “Again, we feel really good about our offensive line and where we are there. But you always want to build strengths.”

The Falcons are interviewing some of the nation’s top players at the NFL Scouting Combine. They are preparing for free agency and the NFL draft, which will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.

The Falcons currently have seven picks, including an extra third-round pick from the Calvin Ridley trade with Jacksonville.

In addition to the quarterback position, the Falcons must upgrade at wide receivers, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.

“You want to add to strengths,” Fontenot said. “The way that we go through this process, whether we are talking about free agency. Whether we are talking about the draft, we want to add good football players that fit the makeup.”

Fontenot flashed back to last season when the Falcons added safety Jessie Bates III in free agency.

“But when you have a player who is unique, it was unique to have a player like Jessie Bates available that fits the makeup/profile,” Fontenot said. “He’s a multiplier in terms of the makeup and the character. He’s a good football player. Let’s add those players regardless of the position.”

The Falcons have finished 7-10 over the past three seasons. They have not made the playoffs since the 2017 season. The Falcons appear to have a tougher schedule next season and will need to make up some ground on the Bucs and the Saints in the NFC South.

“So, I would say, we need to improve this entire roster,” Fontenot said. “We are not going to close any doors at any position.”

The Falcons had their scouts off the road and in the building for their scouting meetings earlier in February. Fontenot felt the meetings were “outstanding.”

Assistant general manager Kyle Smith directed those meetings, which culminated with the Falcons’ setting their initial draft board.

“The fun thing about those meetings is that they are just based off of film, right,” Fontenot said. “So, we had the football games played. The season played and then the all-star games. So, it’s just based off film.”

The Falcons will go through the off-the-field issues and players’ character. They also will marry the scouting evaluations with the coaches’ schemes.

“We have to go through the combine and the Pro Days,” Fontenot said. “We stack the whole board based off of football. The meetings were excellent. It showed that this is a really, really strong draft.”

The Falcons will look to free agency first for the quarterback. The top target will be Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, if he becomes available as a free agent. The Falcons also could look to trade with the Bears for Justin Fields.

However, in their discussions with the media, coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson have not described a running quarterback as fitting the offense.

Fields doesn’t fit the description of a “triggerman” that Morris said they are looking to acquire.

If the Falcons can’t get a desirable free agent or someone to trade for, they have the eighth overall pick in the draft. The Falcons would have to trade up in the draft to get one of the top three quarterback prospects.

Fontenot said the Falcons are trying to evaluate quarterbacks.

“It’s always here and here (points to heart and head),” Fontenot said. “It’s from the neck up. It’s about who you are as a person. ... It’s the makeup that makes them special.”

There are different styles of quarterbacks the Falcons could pursue.

“Whether you are talking about the draft, talking about free agency, there are a lot of different flavors,” Fontenot said. “A lot of different skill sets, physical attributes, but what never changes is that it’s about the makeup and the character ... there is no more pressure ... (on anyone) outside of the head coach. At that position you have more pressure than at that specific position.”

The major part of the evaluation is how the quarterback will handle the pressure of the position.

“I don’t care if you’re talking about a high school quarterback, college or NFL,” Fontenot said. “There’s a lot of pressure. You can’t predict how a person is going to handle that pressure. They (must) have the right things in here (the heart) and in here (the head) to handle that. I would say, that’s what hasn’t changed.”

The Falcons will gather their information on all of the quarterback candidates.

“It’s all about the makeup,” Fontenot reiterated. “It’s got to be the right person. Because we’ve seen different players do it different ways in terms of skill set. In terms of background, where they came from. We’ve seen a lot of different guys do it different ways. You (must) know the makeup.”

The Falcons will rely heavily on their scouting department.

The scouts work really hard,” Fontenot said. “They are in the schools. They are talking to everybody. We go through that process. It’s what you see on the film. It’s us spending time with them, as much time as we can with them here and in other places.”

The Falcons plan to gather as much information as they can on the players.

“It’s not a perfect science,” Fontenot said. “If someone had the perfect thing that you had to look at, obviously, they’d be a genius. So, it’s not a perfect science. But that’s why we are working hard to assess that.”

The Falcons believe they can compete in the NFC South with an upgrade at quarterback, but to compete again for the NFC title, they’ll need to add players. They are balancing their short-term goals with their long-range plan.

“We won’t close any doors,” Fontenot said.

Robinson will play a key role in the quarterback search.

When you hear Zac talk, you can hear how intelligent he is,” Fontenot said. “Not just intelligent, but how forward-thinking that he is.”

Robinson ideally would try to create an offense to fit the new quarterback’s talents.

“So, he’s not going to be fixed on a specific thing that he’s always done,” Fontenot said. “We’re just going to do it this way. He’s going to look at every player on our roster and (determine) how can we maximize each one of those players. How can we bring players in and continue to grow?”

The Steelers and Raiders are perceived to be the Falcons’ competition in a possible trade for Fields.

“So, I don’t listen to that information,” Fontenot said. “Because there a lot of things out there that just aren’t accurate. Personally, I don’t read or listen to those other things. I just stay focused on our process and with what we need to do.”

The foundation for trades has been laid at the combine.

“Now, we do have conversations with other teams,” Fontenot said. “We gather as much information as we can. There (are) some real things that we get from direct communications, but I don’t read what the narratives are. You’ll go crazy if you do that. It’s just about focusing on our process and knowing what is real.”

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks for receivers downfield against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on Dec. 24, 2023, in Chicago. (Trent Sprague/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

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