Pro-Bowl TE makes sense for hawks in free agency


A 2-time TE Pro-Bowl makes sense for the Falcons in free agency.

The Atlanta Falcons aren’t expected to be done with free agency, even with the start of training camp looming on the horizon. Instead, general manager Terry Fontenot must enforce the rule on a veteran who has a lot to offer to both phases of the Falcons’ offense in 2022.

That two-time Pro-Bowler would help fix the team’s issues in the red zone, an area where even record-breaking rookie Kyle Pitts wasn’t much of a factor last season. A veteran with a knack for opening up on the goal line would be invaluable as defenses naturally focus their attention on Pitts.

Speaking of value, the Falcons could use a tight end that’s a more physical blocker to help head coach Arthur Smith fulfill his desire to establish the running game. As it stands, the Falcons look set to lean on this year’s sixth-round pick to handle the positional lock-in.

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It’s a risk Fontenot and Smith don’t need to take. Not when a veteran ticks both boxes as a red zone threat and a credible blocker. The Falcons should act quickly, however, as this free agent is starting to attract interest from a host of teams.

Falcons can make room for an 11-year-old pro

Kyle Rudolph is still in the market, and he’s a player the Falcons can make room for on the roster. Pitts is currently headlining the depth chart at tight end, where he is joined by the arrival of free agent Anthony Firkser, who played for Smith when the latter was offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. , and rookie John FitzPatrick.

He was selected 213th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, largely because of his physical style, according to Josh Kendall of The Athletic“Georgia’s sixth-round pick caught just 17 passes in college, but he’ll block someone, which is why the Falcons picked him. You can also expect him to be an occasional target from the red zone due to his size and the attention that London and Pitts are sure to close in on the goal line.

Rudolph has done these things throughout his career. He is a proven commodity, having caught 49 touchdowns during stints with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants.

Many of Rudolph’s scores come from within the 20s, including this one for the Giants vs Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8:

Although Rudolph struggled on a bad Giants team a year ago, the Falcons need someone with his red zone chops. Especially since Pitts struggled in this area.

The otherwise electrifying point guard caught just one touchdown in his first season. Providing more threat near the goal line is a regular request from those identifying where Pitts can improve his game, including Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus.

Pitts is also never likely to make a significant impact as a blocker, an area where Rudolph is above average. The 6’6″, 265-pound player has played in heavy hitters for most of his career, particularly with the Vikings, where he helped open holes for Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook.

Rudolph offered a refresher on his blocking skills when he flattened Washington defensive end Chase Young last season, a block highlighted by the former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz:

Okay, so it was a passing play, but Rudolph still cleared a lane for quarterback Daniel Jones to exploit. Imagine how effective Marcus Mariota’s dual threat talents would be on a play like this.

Restoring the race is something Smith is keen to do after making it his trademark with the Titans, for kendall“Look at the numbers for the 2019 and 2020 Tennessee teams for which he was the offensive coordinator: first in yards after contact (3.66), second in rushing attempts (483 per season) and yards per carry (5.09) , fourth in EPA per run (0) and first downs (123 per season) and eighth in rushing percentage (42.0).Smith wants to be able to run the ball.His offensive plan depends on it.

Adding Rudolph to round out the offensive line and fullback Keith Smith would be a good way for the head coach to get back to basics. That’s on the condition that another team doesn’t beat the Falcons to signing Rudolph.

Rudolph drawing a crowd in free agency

More than a few teams are starting to show interest in Rudolph, including the Denver Broncos, per Jay Glazer from Fox Sports:

Apart from the Broncos, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that one of Rudolph’s former teams was joined by one of the Falcons’ NFC South rivals:

It’s a growing list, but one the Falcons should join. Rudolph has the basic attributes to improve Smith’s offense in two key areas. He also offers the experience and toughness a rebuilding team needs to add a more physical advantage.

The rookies report to training camp on Tuesday, July 19, but if FitzPatrick doesn’t make an impression, Fontenot should move quickly to offer Rudolph a short-term contract.

Christy J. Olson