The Atlanta Falcons have hired Terry Fontenot as their general manager, pairing him with recently hired coach Arthur Smith to try to return the franchise to the playoffs.
The 40-year-old Fontenot becomes the Falcons' first Black general manager. Under the NFL's new hiring guidelines encouraging minority hiring, the Saints will receive two third-round draft picks.
Fontenot has spent the past 18 years with the New Orleans Saints in a variety of capacities, most recently as the vice president/assistant general manager of pro personnel. He began his career as a marketing intern before moving into the scouting department and has held his most recent post for the past year.
"When we started this process, we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building," Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank said in a statement. "We feel very strongly that we've found that individual in Terry Fontenot. In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgements 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 honor the expectations they have with tremendous passion and dedication to competitive excellence."
The Falcons also interviewed four other candidates for the position: Falcons director of college scouting Anthony Robinson, Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown, former Los Angeles Rams scouting director Brad Holmes (who was recently hired as the Detroit Lions' GM) and former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith.
Fontenot replaces Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with head coach Dan Quinn on Oct. 11 after the team's 0-5 start. Dimitroff had been the Falcons' GM since 2008. The Falcons hired Arthur Smith on Friday.
"I have found the perfect opportunity for my family's next steps," Fontenot said in a statement. "I feel honored and thankful that Arthur Blank and [team president] Rich McKay have given me this privilege and I look forward to working alongside the two of them, Arthur Smith and our entire organization as we strive together to reach our competitive goals and give our fans the performances they deserve. My family and I are thrilled to make our new home in Atlanta and look forward to meeting our fellow Falcon fans."
The Falcons had reached the playoffs five times over the past 11 seasons, including reaching Super Bowl LI following the 2016 season. They led New England 28-3 in that game, but Tom Brady led a comeback that culminated in the Patriots' 34-28 overtime win.
The Falcons have gone 18-30 since then.