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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, Kyle Pitts and adding an edge rusher this offseason

We discuss why the Falcons went with Taylor Heinicke in Week 16, the prospect of trading Pitts (don't do it!!) and the future of the defensive end spot.

The Bair mailbag is full. If it were an actual sack, not a virtual one, it would be overflowing. Like, 50-plus submissions in the last few days. That's a lot.

And, as you'd expect, most fans aren't real happy. That makes sense, considering the fact that the Falcons were looking to create separation atop the NFC South just a few days ago, before losing two straight division games and falling behind the pace. They're also down in some primary tiebreakers, meaning Atlanta likely needs to win out and get some help to claim this division.

That, we've got to admit, is a longshot.

There are lots of coach and quarterback questions and a few other forward-thinking topics we'll address in this Wednesday Bair Mail and the next one coming on Friday. And yes, we don't deal with Arthur Smith much in this mailbag. I'm not ignoring those questions. I'll address them on Friday.


Mike S from Calgary

I had thought once they announced Ridder as QB he would have the rest of the season in that role - I think if you make that decision you need to live with the good and bad and see if you have your future guy but a change now screams to me a waving of the white flag on his shot. Do you think he has earned the last 3 games to try and correct these mistakes?

Bair: This is an interesting point Mike brings up, a counter to the masses screaming for Ridder to be benched after the Falcons lost to Carolina.

Head coach Arthur Smith said he wasn't going to play musical chairs at the quarterback spot, with a plan to start Ridder the rest of the season after elevating him back to QB1 coming out of a Week 11 bye. Two straight divisional losses changed things, especially after a fourth-quarter interception that contributed to perhaps the toughest loss of this regime.

Let's go back to what head coach Arthur Smith said after the Panthers loss (as of this Wednesday morning publication Smith hadn't yet commented on why he went with Taylor Heinicke in Week 16) about the quarterback spot.

"Nothing's ever set in stone," Smith said. "You've got to evaluate and adapt. Just like the questions you're asking about personnel and what you got to do, we got to find a way and we need to win."

That's the driver, here. The Falcons haven't been eliminated. In order to win out and pull a rabbit out of the hat, the Falcons can't afford the critical mistakes that Ridder regularly makes. That's why you go a different direction.

Did Ridder deserve the final few starts? Maybe it would be better for his development and to get a good sense of whether or not he's the guy, though I think the coaches have a good sense of that already. You can't put his development above the team, not when there's air left in Atlanta's lungs.

That Tampa loss was tough. The Panthers loss, though, was something altogether different. That necessitated this move. Ridder had to protect the ball. He put it in harm's way. That diminished trust. Heinicke has stepped in before and made miracles happen. He'll have to again this time, but he'll have to be his devil-may-care self and really go for it. That comes with some risk, though.

Right now, though, it's about the team. Smith believes Heinicke gives the Falcons the best chance to get out of this funk.

Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.

Now that the quarterback situation is where it is, let the speculation begin. I would be for trading Pitts simply because he is getting near the end of his rookie contract and still might have some trade value. He may not be a fit for the next head coach and a highly drafted pick that does not see the ball that much could be part of a package to be traded for a high first round draft pick to get one of the better QBs.

Bair: I'm not trading Kyle Pitts, Barry. The guy's a rare talent to build around, someone I believe will get his pre-knee-injury explosiveness and burst back. Sometimes it takes some time to find it, which could come from the rest of a calm, non-rehab-related offseason.

His value isn't super high at this point, and that's another detraction. If I'm the GM, I execute Pitts' fifth-year option and have faith that he can improve on rookie form and be the guy worthy of a No. 4 overall selection. I might be in the minority regarding Pitts, but I truly believe he's going to get all the way back. You'd hate for him to be on another team when that happens. Keep him. Build around him and Drake London. This team isn't as far away as people think. No sense in blowing it all up, or sacrificing skill players in the name of another position.

Geoffrey Cobb from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hi Scott, Another very frustrating year as a Falcons fans! I feel like we have wasted two years with QBs who were not legit NFL starters and we have not had a threat at edge rusher since John Abraham. Do you believe that we address these areas early in the draft, free agency or both?

Bair: With all the quarterback topics in this mailbag, I'm going to focus on the second part of Geoffrey's question. It's fair to wonder where the long-term production is coming off the edge. The Falcons are settled inside with Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata, with some experienced depth on the inside.

Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell have had nice showings this season, with nine sacks between them thus far and quality run play off both edges. Both guys are on expiring one-year deals, so there's no certainty that they'll return. Zach Harrison's in the fold and Lorenzo Carter has another year on his deal, but that's about it at the end spot. Arnold Ebiketie is playing strongside linebacker and could make for a good third-down specialist.

The Falcons could bring a younger veteran in who can compete for double-digit sacks. That might be a prize free-agent get in a year where the Falcons won't have as much cap space but enough to make a splash. The first round might not be an option, as that might be a spot where you've got to take a quarterback. Leonard Williams is a higher-priced option, if the Falcons want to go that route, or Marcus Davenport might look to reunite with Ryan Nielsen on a prove-it deal after missing so much time with injury.

A second-round selection could be a thing, too, because, as Geoffrey points out, they'll probably have to reload at the end spot even if Campbell and/or Durpree come back.

Call for questions

Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's mailbag.

Take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers during Week 15.

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