New Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot has a philosophical choice in his first seasons taking the reins in the Peach State: Build for now or the future.
Free agency awaits first for the cap-strapped Falcons, who sit over the projected salary cap. With his hands mostly tied on the open market, Fontenot's big-picture plans in Atlanta might not be entirely visible until the 2021 NFL Draft.
Will the GM use the No. 4 overall pick on a player who could immediately upgrade a needed position in the trenches? Will they take a quarterback of the future believing they won't be in the top-5 to make such a selection in subsequent seasons? Will Fontenot sell the pick to a QB-needy team for a boatload of assets to restock a top-heavy roster?
"We'll make decisions that help the team win this year, but we've also got to think of future years -- 2022, 2023 -- so there's a balance to it," he said, via the Associated Press. "We want to be as competitive as possible now, while also keeping the future in mind."
The first-time GM's discussion made it clear that he's aware of the overhaul he inherited. The headache includes a precarious salary cap situation that has already seen the Falcons make cuts like trusty veteran Ricardo Allen. More bloodletting from the new brass is sure to come in the weeks ahead.
"We have to make some hard decisions on players that are on this roster," the GM said. "We have to go find players. We can't just build this roster with overpaid players from free agency, and top draft picks. We have to really dig and find value in free agency."
The key to the Falcons offseason will be the No. 4 overall pick, a place Fontenot called a "prime spot" to begin roster construction.
"Some really good players will be there at four," he said. "There's a lot of different scenarios to go through. It's a prime spot to be in. It's not a spot we want to be in very often, but we've got to take advantage of it and be open to all possibilities."
Given their financial ties to Ryan for at least another year, the Falcons seem poised to put a bright "For Sale" sign on the No. 4 pick in hopes a club will pay big to get one of the top signal-callers. That hope didn't materialize last year for teams at the top of the draft board with Miami and L.A. able to sit tight and to grab Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, respectively. If no trade scenario brings a windfall for Fontenot, how he uses that No. 4 pick will determine the next several years of rebuilding in Atlanta.