You could call the Falcons winners of the lockout (no, not in the Charlie Sheen sense of the word), though "survivors" is probably a more appropriate term. However, regardless of what you call it the Falcons front office has done a stand up job of guiding the team through a very uncertain time.
Under the new NFL salary cap, the Falcons will be a comfortable $13.9M under the cap, as opposed to teams like the Cowboys who are almost $19M over the mark. That leaves the Falcons with enough room to retain most of their roster, along with a few minor deals to bring in some complementary pieces the team will need.
You also have to consider that the trade for monster trade for Julio Jones was as timely as ever. While rookie contracts and guaranteed money were higher than ever last season, the new rookie wage scale will likely make Jones much more affordable under the new CBA.
However, the Falcons ability to organize effective team practices in the midst of the lockout was especially promising for 2011. Matt Ryan's ability to coordinate the workouts displayed some great leadership ability, and the Falcons probably had one of the best turnouts around the NFL for their player-led practices.
Many were also worried that the lockout would stunt the growth of rookies by keeping them away from meaningful practice time. Not so for Jones, who proved to be one of the regulars at the unofficial practices and has already built up a good relationship with his QB.
This lockout was a very trying time for owners, players, and fans alike. But seeing the Falcons running strong out of the gate almost makes up for it.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.