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Terry Fontenot hired as new Atlanta Falcons general manager

The Atlanta Falcons have officially lured away a key front office member from the NFC South rival Saints in naming Terry Fontenot as their new general manager.

Nov 22, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons helmets on the bench during their game against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons officially announced on Tuesday that Terry Fontenot will serve as their new general manager.

Previously working in the New Orleans Saints front office for many years, Fontenot is a respected personnel man who’s widely viewed across the NFL as an excellent hire to lead up Atlanta’s efforts to improve in 2021 and beyond.

Terry Fontenot named Atlanta Falcons GM

Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s comments were prominently featured in the news release posted to the team’s website confirming Fontenot’s hiring:

“In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgments that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout. Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and the expectations they have to a high level.

Arthur Blank on Terry Fontenot

The Saints had Fontenot in the fold for 18 years. He most recently served as New Orleans’ vice president and assistant GM for pro personnel, working very closely with Mickey Loomis and the executive team.

Because New Orleans was still in the playoffs during the Divisional Round, Fontenot couldn’t accept the job until now.

How Terry Fontenot could change balance of power in NFC South

Dec 6, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) makes a catch behind New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Given his more recent focus on current NFL players specifically as opposed to running the Saints’ show on college scouting, Fontenot nevertheless did have plenty of input as to what New Orleans did through the draft, so he has a holistic approach to personnel thanks to a wealth of experience and variety of roles with one of the NFL’s premier organizations.

But New Orleans is in seriously dire straits, entering 2021 with a whopping $95 million salary cap deficit and legendary quarterback Drew Brees reportedly entering retirement. That could well mean the Saints’ superiority as four-time reigning NFC South champions is seriously threatened.

Atlanta’s cap situation isn’t great either, at $32.3 million in the red, but that pales in comparison to what the Saints are dealing with. Fontenot has had to work around New Orleans’ expensive payroll in recent seasons, and the Falcons’ cap is far more manageable than what’s happening with his former team.

With a new head coach in Arthur Smith to join Fontenot in leading Atlanta into the future, there’s reason to be optimistic about the franchise’s next era. The Saints are going to have their work cut out to rebuild on the fly, and are missing a key cog in their front office in Fontenot, who’s now with a division rival.

As for the Falcons’ side of things specifically, they have the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Right away, Fontenot will have a decision to make on quarterback Matt Ryan. Does Atlanta stick with the former NFL MVP for a 14th season, or move on with a new signal-caller.

Trading Ryan after the June 1 deadline would allow the Falcons to save valuable cap room and also give the veteran and the organization a fresh start, which could be an appealing avenue for both parties to take.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in win-now mode with Tom Brady under center, and the Carolina Panthers are looking good entering Year 2 of the Matt Rhule era. Fontenot will hope to blend those division adversaries’ strategies by being competitive in 2021, but also freeing up enough cap flexibility to help Atlanta upgrade key areas of its roster.