After years of frugality, the Atlanta Falcons entered the offseason of 2023 with the second-most salary limit space in the National Football League. The team was able to acquire one of the finest free-agent defenders, while also adding some quality veterans and retaining two important offensive linemen.
The Falcons picked running back Bijan Robinson and guard Matthew Bergeron in the next two rounds of the 2023 NFL draft.
Was it a quiet offseason for Atlanta? Not on the defensive side of the ball, as the Falcons worked to get players that fit Ryan Nielsen’s scheme. Bates is the centerpiece of the defensive moves, signing one of the best safeties in football to a four-year, $64 million deal.
Bates had the same impact last year as he had in previous years, finishing with 71 tackles, eight passes defensed and a career-high four interceptions for the Bengals in 2022. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 49.8 passer rating targeting Bates, completing just 59% of their passes.
So, what was the team’s greatest offseason move? According to CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr, Atlanta’s acquisition of former Bengals safety Jessie Bates III distinguished itself from the rest:
The Falcons had a bottom ten pass defense last season, ranking 25th in pass yards allowed and 23rd in pass touchdowns allowed. Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins were their starting safeties last season, so Bates is a massive upgrade. Bates should get A.J. Terrell back to his All-Pro level too. — Jeff Kerr, CBS Sports
Clearly, Atlanta’s secondary struggled last season, so Bates’ addition should be welcomed. Could the dynamic safety bring out the best in A.J. Terrell, the Falcons’ cornerback? Kerr appears to concur:
It’s great to see the Falcons sign one of the most formidable free safeties in football. Bates’s name has been linked to the Falcons for the majority of the offseason. During free agency, Atlanta added additional secondary players, including Bates’s former teammate Tre Flowers and nickel CB Mike Hughes.
This season, it will be up to defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen to maximize the effectiveness of the team’s revamped defense.