After a decade-plus of Matt Ryan's prolific passing attack, the Atlanta Falcons offense turned in a new direction in 2022, using a run-heavy scheme to create a surprisingly efficient attack. The Atlanta defense was not quite as successful, giving up the sixth-most yards per game in the NFL.
The 7-10 Falcons spent the off-season improving that mediocre defensive unit, giving safety Jessie Bates (Cincinnati Bengals), defensive tackle David Onyemata (New Orleans Saints), and outside linebacker (Kaden Elliss) all hefty multi-year deals. The addition of running back Bijan Robinson with their first-round pick also means that Atlanta will continue to lean into its strength on the ground in 2023.
With training camp on the horizon, the Falcons face difficult decisions about which players to keep on the final roster. The final cut is August 29th, and by then every team must cull its roster from the current 90-player limit to a group of 53. Here are some notable Atlanta Falcons players who should be worried about not making the cut.
Falcons roster cut candidates before 2023 NFL training camp
Cordarrelle Patterson has been a useful playmaker in the Falcons' offense during his two years in Atlanta, averaging just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage each season. But the Atlanta backfield situation this season complicates things.
The Falcons selected running back Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and the Texas ball carrier is set to be the Falcons' day-one starter. Also ahead of Patterson is Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 1,035 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a rookie in 2022. These two stalwarts will be Atlanta's primary rushers, leaving Cordarrelle Patterson in the unenviable position of having to fight for a small number of carries.
Maybe this means Patterson will contribute more as a receiver, but Patterson was much worse as a pass catcher during his second year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The former Minnesota Viking went from 52 catches for 10.5 yards each in 2021 to 21 catches at 5.8 yards per reception in 2022. Sure, the Atlanta passing attack was miserable, but Patterson also averaged two fewer yards per catch in 2022 while maintaining a similar average target depth.
This is the final year of Cordarrelle Patterson's contract, and cutting him would save the Atlanta Falcons $4.2 million — money the franchise can use to bolster a weak receiving corps.
A former SEC quarterback both at Florida and Arkansas, Feleipe Franks' one and only NFL pass attempt this far was an interception against the New England Patriots in 2021. After a year as the third-string QB in Atlanta, the franchise decided to make a switch: Franks was going to be a hybrid tight end moving forward.
The 6-6, 234-pounder had the requisite size and ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at his Arkansas Pro Day in 2021. Despite the switch, the 25-year-old still did not see much of the field in 2022, playing just 8% of the team's offensive snaps and not accumulating a single yard from scrimmage — though he was more present on special teams.
The signing of Jonnu Smith from the Patriots now makes Feleipe Franks the fourth-string tight end in Atlanta, and his all-around value does not warrant a spot on the Falcons' roster.
After an impressive first season as a starter in 2021, Falcons offensive guard Matt Hennessy spent much of 2022 as a backup while also dealing with injuries. Now healthy, Hennessy is still projected to start 2023 on the bench behind rookie second-round draft pick Matthew Bergeron out of Syracuse.
This will be a difficult decision for the Falcons to make, as Hennessy has a solid shot to beat out Bergeron and regain his starting spot, but the Falcons could also choose to cut the fourth-year man if they believe that Bergeron is their guy moving forward. Cutting Hennessy — a free agent in 2024 — would save Atlanta $2.7 million and only cost them $252,000 against the salary cap.