Atlanta Falcons 2024 Season Preview: Are Additions Enough for Team to Contend?

BetSided's Wade Snow takes a look at the Atlanta Falcons offseason moves and what to expect for the Dirty Birds headed into the 2024 season.

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Next up in the "Way Too Early 2024 NFL Preview" series is none other than the Atlanta Falcons. 

Growing up in Macon, Georgia, I was a diehard Falcons fan for the first 17 years of my life. Following the historic collapse in the 2017 Super Bowl against you-know-who, I reacted in a way that was so obscene that I had to do some real soul-searching about my relationship with the Falcons and sports in general. 

I made a decision then that would impact my NFL fandom for the rest of my life: I divorced myself from the Atlanta Falcons. 

It was an attempt to remove myself from a toxic relationship in hopes that my marriage to sports would become fundamentally more healthy. (Spoiler: it didn't)

I have remained true to my decision, and it came at the perfect time in hindsight, as Atlanta has only made one playoff appearance in the seven years following. Having said that, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Dirty Birds and want to see them succeed. 

Whether the organization's changes this offseason right the ship for the Falcons and their fans is still up for debate. 

Luckily for you, I am here to give you all the information you need when deciding which side of the debate you want to be on regarding the 2024 Atlanta Falcons. 

Let's dive in. 

If you want to bet on the NFL for the 2024 season, make sure to download DraftKings! New users that sign up with the link below will receive $150 in bonus bets if they simply place a $5 wager!

2023 Betting Trends: Atlanta Falcons

  • Atlanta went 5-12 ATS
  • Atlanta went 3-8 ATS as a favorite 
  • Atlanta went 3-5 ATS as the home team 
  • Atlanta went 2-6 ATS as the away team
  • Atlanta went 1-6 ATS following a win
  • Overs went 7-10 in Atlanta's games

Personnel Changes 

Player/Coach

Postion/Role

Contract

Raheem Morris

Head Coach

5 year contract

Zac Robinson

Offensive Coordinator

3 year contract

Kirk Cousins

Quarterback

FA- 4 years/$180m

Darnell Mooney

Wide Receiver

FA- 3 years/$39m

Rondale Moore

Wide Receiver

Trade for QB Desmond Ridder

Khadarel Hodge

Wide Receiver

Resigned FA- 1 year/$1.2m

Ray-Ray McCloud III

Wide Receiver

FA- 2 years/$6m

Charlier Woerner

Tight End

FA- 3 years/$12m

Storm Norton

Tackle

Resigned FA- 1 year/$1.125m

Kentavious Steet

Defensive Tackle

Resigned FA- 1 year/$1.765m

Coaching Additions 

While there are certainly teams that have been more active this offseason than the Falcons, none have transformed its organization more than Atlanta. 

It all started with the firing of former coach Arthur Smith immediately following the loss to the New Orleans Saints to end the regular season. It was the culmination of Smith's third season as the lead man in Atlanta, all of which ended an uninspiring 7-10. At least he was consistent.

While there were numerous complaints about Smith's coaching decisions during his tenure in Atlanta, Falcons fans' biggest gripe was consistently personnel-based. All three of Smith and GM Terry Fontenot's first-round picks were centered around offensive skill positions: TE Kyle Pitts taken fourth overall in 2021, WR Drake London taken eighth overall in 2022, and RB Bijan Robinson also taken eighth in the 2023 draft. 

Sounds like the blueprint for one of the league's best offenses, right? Wrong. It could have been had Smith and Fontenot had a serviceable quarterback to get the stable of weapons the ball. 

In 2021, Atlanta relied on the practically retired Matt Ryan, who was a shell of his former self. In 2022, the Falcons relied on the insipid combination of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, and the last year of Smith's run was centered on an equally anemic quarterback room of Ridder and Taylor Heineke. 

Following three consecutive underperforming years (and six years without a playoff berth), Atlanta had no choice but to shake things up on the coaching front. 

The good news for the Falcons following Arthur Smith's firing was that this offseason, the NFL had arguably the deepest class of available coaches in its history. 

Early on, Falcons fans dreamed of signing the legendary Bill Belichick, the experienced Mike Vrabel, or one of two up-and-coming offensive coordinators in Houston's Bobby Slowik and Detroit's Ben Johnson, among others. 

The initial odds for the Falcons' next head coach were released two days following Smith's dismissal. They had Belichick leading the way at +300, Ben Johnson at +400, Washington Commanders' OC Eric Bienemy at +500, and one name at the bottom of the list at +1000: Los Angeles Rams DC Raheem Morris. 

Belichick was the first coach to have multiple interviews with the Falcons and shot up to -425 odds to be Atlanta's next coach following the second interview on Jan. 19. What caused the drastic change that led to the Falcons bringing back Morris less than a week later, on Jan. 25? 

Firstly, it was the aforementioned history between Morris and the Falcons. Morris served on Atlanta's staff for five years between 2015-20, wearing several different hats for the organization. His roles ranged from wide receiver coach to defensive coordinator, and he took over the Falcons as interim head coach in the 2020 season.

While the Falcons ultimately decided to go with Arthur Smith heading in to the 2021 season, it was clear that the organization thought highly of the well-rounded Morris. 

Secondly, although owner Arthur Blank says differently, I do not believe the Falcons were ready to give Belichick the power that was going to be required to get the game's best coach in the door; all offseason, it was rumored that hiring Belichick as head coach would also come with his role as de-facto General Manager. It makes sense that the Falcons wanted to avoid giving that type of control to a 71-year-old coach whose last seasons have proved him mortal. 

Lastly, one of the most under-the-radar reasons the Falcons went with Morris was who he was bringing with him. In hiring Morris, the Falcons were also able to lure budding offensive mind Zac Robinson from his role as passing game coordinator for the Rams to take over the offense in Atlanta. 

Robinson has all the makings of the hottest offensive minds in the NFL: he is under 40, runs a high-octane offense centered around a dynamic running back, and coached with Sean McVay. (I say the last in gist, but it does seem like coaching under McVay or Kyle Shanahan is the fastest way to punch your meal ticket in the modern NFL.)

Player Additions

All conversations about the Falcons' offseason player additions must begin with addressing the elephant in the room: why did they devote so much of their cap space to additional receivers when they already have a surplus of weapons? 

The additions of receivers Ray-Ray McCloud III, Darnell Mooney, and Rondale Moore provide Atlanta with a bolstered receiver room, but couldn't that money have been better spent elsewhere? 

Alright, this bit has run its course. I actually love Atlanta's receiver additions because it has finally gotten the piece that has been missing for the last several years: a legitimate quarterback. 

While newly hired Raheem Morris and Zac Robinson were undoubtedly looking to add a quarterback, there were indeed questions about who it would be. Let's look at the initial odds for the next Falcons quarterback entering the offseason as we did with the coaches. 

As of Feb. 25, DraftKings had Justin Fields at -120, Kirk Cousins at +300, two rookies in Michael Penix Jr. and JJ McCarthy at +475 and +550, respectively, and Russell Wilson at +600. 

By Mar. 1, Fields had leaped up to -250 before being removed from sports books entirely. Similarly to Belichick, it seemed like the Falcons had made their choice. What changed in the two weeks leading up to the announcement of Kirk Cousins's signing in Atlanta on Mar. 13? 

Even with the question marks surrounding Cousins's recovery from a torn Achilles, it is clear that the Falcons wanted a more established player to lead this rebuilding franchise. Cousins not only has a proven track record as a player but is also one of the most beloved leaders in the NFL.

And while the Bears' locker room made it clear that they believed fully in Justin Fields's leadership and football prowess, it makes sense that owner Arthur Blank and new head coach Raheem Morris wanted a more proven asset. 

We have discussed in detail the skill and youth of Atlanta's weapons. I understand why the Falcons chose to go with a veteran, especially one as respected as Cousins, to lead this team forward. 

Atlanta's young stars have yet to have the success they would have envisioned on Draft Day. Who is better than Cousins to take them under his wing and help them reach their full potential? I am willing to conjecture no one, at least of the realistic options available to Atlanta. 

Biggest Question Mark Heading Into the 2024 Season

When you have a team with an entirely new coaching staff and a new franchise quarterback, the main concern will always be how well the team will click. This is especially true when the new quarterback is 35 and coming off the worst injury of his career. 

The excitement in Atlanta is palpable, for good reason, but there are unquestionably concerns around Cousins's recovery from his Achilles tear. While he is expected to be fully available by Week 1, fans are right to have questions, given the sheer amount of money that Cousins will be making (4 years/$180m).

Falcons fans should feel good about their "biggest question mark" heading into the 2024 season for a couple of reasons. 

No. 1 is the fact that Cousins's Achilles injury, although slightly different, is very similar to the one that New York Jets' quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered in the opening game of last season. Cousins has discussed his conversations with Rodgers immediately following his own injury. 

It was rumored that Rodgers, who is five years older than Cousins and plays a more mobile quarterback style, was ready to play for the Jets had they been in contention for the playoffs towards the end of the regular season.

Due to New York's struggles, it didn't make sense for Rodgers to come back, but he made it clear to everyone in the organization that he was prepared to, given the right circumstances. 

Now, I don't entirely trust that Rodgers was being forthcoming about playing, and I feel strongly that he knew that the "playoff contention" situation wouldn't be thrown at him after watching a few weeks of Jets football. Still, given Cousins's expanded recovery time, Falcons fans should feel good that he will be ready to go. 

The issue with significant injuries like an Achilles with someone as old as Cousins is not so much about if he will be able to play again, more so whether or not he will be himself again

While I am not a doctor, I damn sure know how to read betting lines, and there is one that specifically makes me confident about Cousins's recovery and performance for the 2024 season. 

DraftKings has Kirk Cousins over 30.5 regular season passing touchdowns at a more expensive-than-expected +125. 

In 12 NFL seasons, Cousins has only surpassed that number twice. Even if you were to count last season, when he was on pace to break 30 before his injury, he has still only achieved that feat in 25% of his NFL seasons. 

It is also worth noting that Atlanta's win total is set at over/under 9.5 heading into the upcoming season. Vegas clearly is confident in the Falcons' improvement and Cousins' success. 

Yes, Cousins is 35. Yes, he is coming off the most significant injury of his career. Yes, he is making a pile of money. But it is my job to tell you when I smell a fishy line, and this one stinks to high heaven. 

As we saw with the Belichick and Fields lines, Vegas is not always correct. But they are certainly better at it than you and I, and I want to be on the right side of Vegas as much as possible. 

I will be taking Kirk Cousins over 30.5 regular-season passing touchdowns. 


Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.