Falcons elect to keep 3 quarterbacks on 53-man roster

2022 starters Darren Hall, Timmy Horne, Parker Hesse and Cornell Armstrong were cut
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (left) and general manager Terry Fontenot (right) confer during team practice at mini-camp on Wednesday, Jun 10, 2021, in Flowery Branch.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (left) and general manager Terry Fontenot (right) confer during team practice at mini-camp on Wednesday, Jun 10, 2021, in Flowery Branch.

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Early in training camp, Falcons coach Arthur Smith discussed how much tougher it would be to make the team in 2023.

The Falcons cut their roster from 86 players to 53 on Tuesday to meet the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline. The Falcons can now add 16 players to the practice squad. They also could continue to make moves on the 53-man roster.

“So, that’s a challenge,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “There are going to be some good players that we have to let go.”

Fontenot was not made available to comment about the moves. Repeated requests were denied by the team.

Among the players affected were four starters from last season: Cornerback Darren Hall, who started nine games last season and played in 17 games, defensive tackle Timmy Horne, who started five games and played in 17 games, tight end Parker Hesse, who started seven games and played in 17, and Cornell Armstrong, who finished last season as the starting right cornerback, were cut.

The Falcons elected to keep three quarterbacks in Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside.

After three drafts, some development and an opportunity to spend in free agency, the Falcons believe they have upgraded their roster, with the hopes of returning the franchise to respectability in the NFL. The Falcons have not reached the playoffs since the 2017 season and have not been over .500 since.

Fontenot and Smith have elected to amass offense weapons through the draft, and when they were relieved of salary-cap constraints, they elected to spend lavishly on defensive players.

“We like where the roster is, and yet we’re always trying to improve,” Fontenot said earlier this month. “We rank right at the top of the league in transactions over the last three years, and that’s not going to change. Whether we’re talking about working out players, signing players off the street, practice-squad transactions, we’re trying to turn over every stone.”

The Falcons make it a practice of speaking face-to-face with the players who are being cut.

“We certainly don’t take it lightly because we’ve had a lot of guys that have really worked hard and guys who have competed hard,” Smith said Sunday. “... Obviously, Tuesday will be a big day, and then we’ll finish the week with two more practices.”

The Falcons want to maintain healthy relationships with the players they cut. They may want to add them to the practice squad and could call them back in case of injuries.

“We talk to everybody,” Smith said. “Again, every team’s different. The way that Terry and I will always operate is we’ll talk to every person. It’s the least we can do. It’s a really tough job that we don’t take lightly. You never want to lose that aspect of it. ... Everybody deserves that.”

After five consecutive losing seasons, the Falcons are hoping to have a breakthrough in 2023.

“We have a brand of football that’s going to be aggressive in all three phases,” Smith said. “We know what the grind is in the NFL week in and week out. It’s our job to go down there and certainly win games at home, among other things. That means something to us.”

The roster decisions have been a part of a ongoing process.

“Yes, we go through it,” Smith said. “We go through it all the time. We talk all day, every day, Terry and I do. We have meetings and a collaborative staff. We’re trying to make the best decisions for this team.”

On offense, the Falcons are projected to have three (27%) or four (36%) new starters from unit that closed the 2022 regular season against Tampa Bay: wide receiver Mack Hollins for Olamide Zacheaus, left guard Matthew Bergeron for Matt Hennessy, tight end Kyle Pitts for Hesse and possibly rookie running back Bijan Robinson for Tyler Allgeier.

The defense is projected to have six new starters (54.5%) under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. Here’s the breakdown: outside linebacker Bud Dupree for Ade Ogundeji, defensive tackle David Onyemata for Abdullah Anderson, defensive end Calais Campbell for Horne, inside linebacker Kaden Elliss for Rashaan Evans, cornerback Tre Flowers or Jeff Okudah for Armstrong and safety Jessie Bates for Jaylinn Hawkins.

If the Falcons elect to start Arnold Ebitketie over Lorenzo Carter, that would make seven new starters (63.6%).

In 2020, the last season of the Thomas Dimitroff-Dan Quinn regime, the Falcons started the season with 19 new players (35.9%), which included five new projected starters from the 53-man roster that closed the previous season.

So, the overhaul, this year by Fontenot and Smith, is massive in comparison.

That 2020 team started 0-5, and Quinn and Dimitroff were fired Oct. 11, 2020.

Recently, San Francisco traded quarterback Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, to Dallas for a fourth-round pick. The Falcons picked Kyle Pitts with the next pick after Lance.

“We’re always communicating with teams on possible trades,” Fontenot said earlier in August. “We’re doing everything we can to improve.”

All of this year’s draft picks survived Tuesday’s cuts. Several of the undrafted players are expected to be added to the practice squad.

Among the draft picks, Robinson and Bergeron could be starters. Defensive end Zach Harrison could contribute along the defensive front.

Cornerback Clark Phillips III could make his way onto the field through special teams and at nickel back.

Safety DeMarcco Hellams, who was the star of the exhibition season, with two interceptions and 18 tackles could play on special teams and provide depth at safety.

Offensive center/guard Jovaughn Gwyn, a seventh-round pick, could provide interior depth.

Here’s a position-by-position look at the Falcons’ 53-man roster.


Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside


Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Bijan Robinson


Keith Smith


Josh Ali, KhaDarel Hodge, Mack Hollins Drake London and Scotty Miller


Matthew Bergeron, Drew Dalman, Jovaughn Gwyn, Kyle Hinton, Chris Lindstrom, Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary, Joshua Miles and Ryan Neuzil


Calais Campbell, Joe Gaziano, Ta’Quon Graham, Zach Harrison, Albert Huggins, Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata


Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone


Troy Andersen, Tae Davis, Kaden Elliss and Nate Landman


Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt and John FitzPatrick


Dee Alford, Tre Flowers, Mike Hughes, Jeff Okudah, Clark Phillips III and A.J. Terrell


Jessie Bates III, Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins and DeMarcco Hellams


Injured reserve: CB Cornell Armstrong and WR Penny Hart

Released: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, CB Breon Borders, OL Jonotthan Harrison, ILB Andre Smith Jr. and OLB Kemoko Turay

Waived: S Micah Abernathy, WR Slade Bolden, CB Natrone Brooks, S Cliff Chattman, DL Carlos Davis, S Lukas Denis, TE Tucker Fisk, ILB Frank Ginda, CB Darren Hall, DL Demone Harris, WR Keilahn Harris, TE Parker Hesse, DL Timmy Horne, RB Godwin Igwebuike, ILB Mike Jones Jr., DL LeCale London, WR Zay Malone, OL Michal Menet, DL Caeveon Patton, FB Clint Ratkovich, OT Trevor Reid, WR Mathew Sexton, G Justin Shaffer, OT Tyler Vrabel, RB Carlos Washington Jr. and OT Barry Wesley.

The Bow Tie Chronicles

About the Author