Hawk owner Arthur Blank and Terry Fontenot
“I see a lot of similarities with Buffalo,” Fontenot said. “They took a step back to take a step forward while they were dealing with cap issues.”
At a press conference at the end of last year, Falcons owner Arthur Smith said he sees the status of the bills as “no different from what Atlanta is trying to build.”
The Buffalo Bills appointed general manager Brandon Bean and head coach Sean McDermott in 2017 as they were coming off three unsuccessful seasons under Rex Ryan. Those seasons saw the Bills record 7-9, 8-8, 9-7, and Ryan’s last season was the first season he won for Buffalo since 2004.
McDermott and Penn dealt with the same thing any other rebuilding team has to deal with, salary cap issues, and they had more dead money than any other team in the league at the time.
The Bills’ new leadership team has made some tough decisions to cut some current overpaid stars and ride Tyrod Taylor’s quarterback. They also went for free bargain basket shopping to fill out some roster points and went 9-7 in 2017. That was good enough for a season one playoff appearance in the McDermott and Beane era.
The following season saw a step back. Even after trading to get quarterback Josh Allen into the NFL draft and landing a few Free Agents, 6-10 was the best Buffalo could do in 2018 with a freshman under the position.
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But 2018 seems so far away now that the Bills have made Posteason every year since then, and it’s a perennial competition. They also boast one of the most downloaded rosters in the league as Allen has developed into one of the best signal callers in the NFL.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith
Hawk owner Arthur Blank
Falcons QB Marcus Mariota
Buffalo has also hit on just about every decision they’ve made. From big deals like the one that widely brought Stefon Diggs to town to home draft picks like Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins, to salary cap decisions like figuring out who to pay and who to let go.
They’ve been hitting pretty much every step of the way as a free agent lately, too. The 2022 free agent category includes quarterback Von Miller, receiver Jamison Crowder and defensive tackle Da’Quan Jones.
The biggest hurdle the hawks now face is the salary cap. Atlanta is stuck with linebacker Matt Ryan’s record cap making a record $40,525,000 and the remainder from Julio Jones’ receiving $15,500,000 deal off the 2022 cap numbers. This represents 26.92 percent of the Falcons’ 2022 cap space.
That number will look a lot better in 2023 when the team is expected to unlock more than $100 million in the cover room. The club is looking to move in the right direction with its 2022 NFL Draft class.
“There may be short-term pain. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fontenot said. “Even this year, we don’t mail it. If we get the right guys made of the right stuff, we’ll go out there and beat up some people.”