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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, top QBs in 2023 NFL Draft, expectations for Arthur Smith and Ryan Nielsen

Your questions get answers in this Wednesday mailbag

The Falcons have had a busy week on the coaching front. They held Ryan Nielsen's introductory press conference. Jerry Gray's a part of the team now.

They also lost quarterbacks coach Charles London.


There are a few coaches left to hire, which is keeping Arthur Smith busy on those fronts.

Each one of these moves means something for the organization as it readies for a monumental offseason period that we'll discuss in this Wednesday afternoon Bair Mail.

I'd like to touch on something quickly before we get to all that. I make every effort to make sure every story on this website is well edited. Sometimes typos and grammatical mistakes pass through our defenses. There might be one or two below. That's always a bummer. I sincerely appreciate those who point them out and hold me to a high standard. But, if you're going to be rude and condescending about it, make sure you spell your own name right.

Pardon the tangent. Had to get that one off my chest. Now on to your questions:


T.J. Tabor from Beckley (County), Ga.

Do you think we should stick with Desmond Ridder or try picking up one of the good ones from the draft?

Bair: There's two parts to this one, T.J. Let's focus on the first, well, first: Will they move into the 2023 season with Desmond Ridder as their primary option at quarterback? Please notice that my sentence was carefully constructed. The Falcons are surely signing a quarterback. After Marcus Mariota's expected release, another signal caller must come on board. Assets spent on that position will be telling.

The Falcons could go with a career backup with starter's experience. That might be considered a likely scenario. Ridder did some good things over four starts at the end of the year and showed improvement over that span. Playing with a quarterback on a rookie deal is advantageous and would allow the Falcons to fortify their roster with significant spending and draft capital.

They could try to trade for a star, though someone Lamar Jackson could be considered a pie-in-the-sky option.

Now on to your second point. What about adding a quarterback in the draft? I don't see a huge reason to add one later in the selection process. You've got a third rounder already. Why get another one from later rounds?? If you're going draft a QB, go for it at the top of the draft and get an elite talent on a rookie deal. While that sounds realistic in practice, it might be harder to execute. You might have to trade up to get one. It's very possible Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis are all gone before the Falcons pick at No. 8 overall. There are plenty of QB hungry teams at the top, with other squads who don't need one – Chicago and Arizona, for example -- as willing trade partners. So, it's possible the draft isn't a realistic spot to get a top quarterback without coughing up significant capital to get one.

If I'm laying out scenarios, I think pairing Ridder with a cheaper veteran with significant experience as a starter seems like the likeliest one.

Shane Hymers from Canterbury, U.K.

What do you think will be the expectation on Arthur Smith next season?

Bair: Arthur Smith has finished 7-10 in both of his seasons as Falcons head coach, though similar records were achieved with very different teams. There's legitimate optimism that the 2022 Falcons are headed in the right direction, with an expanding young foundation that could be fortified with tons of salary-cap space and very little dead money. So, you know, expectations will be higher. They should be, especially in a wide-open division that currently doesn't employ any established veteran quarterbacks.

I think Smith would tell you the same thing, that more should be expected from what should be an upgraded roster. It also comes with last year's experience of playing in so many close games. They should be better in those moments as well, another point of optimism. All that only matters, however, if the Falcons spend and draft right. That's why this offseason is so pivotal. The Falcons have a golden opportunity to take a significant step forward. They just have to execute the offseason right.

Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.

Hey Scott. Hope you are doing well. With the hire of Nielsen, I hope he is heavily involved into the players the Falcons bring in this year. Especially the lineman, which were his specialty. It's time the Falcons hit on some defensive lineman and Nielsen had a resume of developing players which is something the past coaching staffs have missed on. It would at some point nice to hear what players he likes for the draft. Also, we should be confident maybe a few of our young guys may take a step forward under his coaching.

Bair: New defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen will certainly have a say in the types of players he believes can execute his system well. GM Terry Fontenot has his scouts sit down with coordinators and position coaches to best understand what traits and talents best fit their scheme. Then they try to match prospects who are also culture fits and adjust draft boards accordingly.

Nielsen avoided specifics when discussing the types of players he likes at given position, but the biggest personnel differences seems to come at edge rusher/defensive end. While Nielsen said he'll find roles for specific talents – there's no doubt that'll be his immediate focus – it's clear that New Orleans used significantly bigger bodies off the edge. The Falcons must make some personnel adjustments to match that if they so choose.

Nielsen made it clear the Falcons are going to play aggressive defense, that they're going to attack the opposition and that he'll get the pass rush going. There was another subtle mention that may have gone unnoticed – stopping the run with a light box. If you can do that and get home rushing the passer with four, you're going to be a successful defense. Nielsen was part of a steady, successful defense in New Orleans. If he can bring that brand of football to Atlanta, the Falcons will be much better for it.

Call for questions

Bair Mails have been more random these days, but we're going to try and make them more of a regular thing moving forward. So please submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's installment.

Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our rookies from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.

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