3 former Falcons who won’t live up to their new contracts

Atlanta probably made the right call on these guys.

Atlanta Falcons v Detroit Lions
Atlanta Falcons v Detroit Lions / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

For most of the offseason, almost all of the free agency conversation has been focused on who the Falcons did sign. Kirk Cousins' four-year, $180 million contract got most of the attention – and rightfully so – but deals for Darnell Mooney, Charlie Woerner, and Ray-Ray McCloud have made Atlanta one of this year's biggest spenders. It's a dubious title, but the Falcons upgraded at every major position of need this offseason, and can use the rest of the time to fill out the edges of their roster how they see fit. There are more than a couple guys they let walk, however, and when you take a look at the full list, the decision to move on from them mostly makes sense. These are the three former Falcons that won't live up to their next contract.

3 former Falcons who won’t live up to their new contracts

1. Jeff Okudah, CB, Houston Texans

Deal: one-year, $4.7 million

After spending one year in Atlanta, Okudah left for Houston this offseason, signing another one-year, $4.7 million deal with the Texans. Even a secondary as talented as the Falcons' couldn't do much for the former 3rd overall pick's career, as Okudah was still rough in coverage, allowing almost 500 yards on 32 receptions and a passer rating of 92.9. At this point in his career, Okudah's ceiling is pretty clear – it's hard to imagine that even at one year and less than $5 million, he's going to play up to that standard.

2. Jonnu Smith, TE, Miami Dolphins

Deal: two-years, $8.4 million

After two miserable seasons spent playing in the dying embers of the Bill Belichick era in New England, Smith went to the Falcons in 2023 and had something that kind of resembles a bounce-back year: he had more receiving yards in one season with Atlanta (582) than he did in his two Patriots season comined (539) and had multiple touchdown catches for the first time since 2020, when he was playing with the Titans. Smith is a solid tight end who has some impressive YAC numbers, and a two-year deal worth less than $10 million isn't that hard to outplay, but it's hard to see him being nearly as big a focal point in the offense now that he's sharing a field with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert. Something like his 2019 Titans season – 35 catches, 439 yards, three touchdowns – feels more realistic than repeating 2023's performance.

3. Van Jefferson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Deal: one-year, $1.2 million

Jefferson was a sneaky-good player with the Rams, and his 50-catch, 800-yard season in 2021 felt like the proverbial breakout performance that gets you paid. Instead, he's dealt with injuries for the last two seasons, and getting traded in the middle of the season because he lost his job to Puca Nacua was sobering reminder of how quickly life changes in the NFL. Appearing in 12 games for the Falcons, Jefferson ended the year with 12 catches for 101 yards while playing less than 50% of the offensive snaps. He signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal with the Steelers this offseason, and while that's by no means a tough contract to outplay, the writing's been on the wall for Jefferson since that 2021 season. If anyone can get the best out of him, it's Mike Tomlin, but that doesn't feel likely given how the past couple years have gone.