The 2021 NFL season was yet another uneventful campaign for the Atlanta Falcons. Sunday's 29-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills secured Atlanta's fourth straight season with a sub-.500 record.
With the playoffs no longer being a possibility, the Falcons must use the offseason to make some major improvements — whether that's through free agency or the 2022 NFL Draft. That also means that some players from this year's roster likely won't return next season.
Here's a look at three Falcons players who likely won't be on Atlanta's roster for the 2022 NFL season.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR
The 2021 NFL season was a career year for Cordarrelle Patterson despite being a nine-year veteran. The Falcons have used the 30-year-old in both passing and rushing scenarios, leading to him tallying career highs in total yards from scrimmage (1,154) and touchdowns (11). While Atlanta would love to keep him around, Patterson is a pending free agent who'll likely get a lot of attention on the open market due to his versatility. He was only on the books for $3 million this season, so it wouldn't be a shock if a team with offensive holes offered him a pay raise. Bigger paydays are rare at this stage of a player's career, so don't be surprised if Patterson cashes in big this offseason.
2. Hayden Hurst, TE
Hayden Hurst became an afterthought in the Falcons offense the moment the team selected Kyle Pitts fourth overall during the 2021 NFL Draft. So far, Hurst's receptions (25) and passing yards (188) are both the worst since his rookie season and his three touchdowns are half as many as he had last year. With Pitts being Atlanta's tight end of the future, Hurst's own future with the franchise is in jeopardy. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the Falcons likely won't bring him back unless it's on a cheap deal. Hurst has shown offensive upside at times in the past, so his best bet may be to see if he's a better fit elsewhere.
3. Dante Fowler Jr., OLB
After starting 13 of 14 games for the Falcons last season, Dante Fowler Jr. has fallen out of favor in Atlanta. The 27-year-old outside linebacker has started just six times (13 games) this season, leading to 33 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. While those stats might look decent to some, that's hardly worth the $10.6 million that Atlanta is paying him this season. Fowler's contract is void next season, which means he'll hit be an unrestricted free agent once the 2021 campaign is over. With the Falcons freeing up a lot of space by getting his name off the books, look for Fowler to likely play elsewhere in 2022.
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Devon Platana is not a FanDuel employee. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.