We're midway through another offseason week with plenty of speculation and discussion about what the Falcons will do in free agency and the draft. We won't have movement in those areas for some time, but I love that the good questions keep coming.
Appreciate how so many of you stay involved with this mailbag during the offseason. Let's keep the questions coming, especially if you're inspired by some of the articles we've written breaking down position groups or this rookie class.
There are several good discussion points in this Wednesday Bair Mail, so let's dive right into it.
John Ryan from Breckenridge, Colo.
With Cordarrelle Patterson, it seems w/ his desire to stay, there might be hope it ends up being about more than just money. I'd think a big factor for him is how he is used in a system. Who do you see as a similar fit to how Art uses him?
Bair: I think you're right, John, that usage and production is a big factor and that'll weigh on Patterson's decision. So will cold, hard cash. As it should. Everybody wants to get paid, especially later in a career when earning potential peaks. I still think the open market value will play a factor in determining whether Patterson returns.
It only takes one team to offer a big sum to throw plans out of whack, which may happen if an offensive coach believes he can imitate or improve on how Arthur Smith used Patterson. That said, the price for a 30-year old running back is never high, even with someone as versatile as Patterson. Seeing what happens with him will be interesting as we move through March.
Spotrac.com estimates his value at $18.2 million over two years. I think that's too high. Maybe two years, $12 million (w/eight guaranteed)? That's double his 2021 salary, with enough guarantees in 2023 to make him feel comfortable he'd see every dime and maybe more with incentives?
Ava Konsterlie from Pennock, Minn.
Hi Bair! I love that you are keeping up on these articles! What is your opinion on what player we should draft with our pick? Or what position do you think we should go after with that pick. Do you think we should address the offense or defense first? I believe in Matt Ryan. He just needs a line to protect him and a good group of receivers. Long time fan over here in MN! GO FALCONS!
Bair: Ava, thanks for the submission. The NFL Draft is the offseason's major focus considering the cap constraints that will impact the Falcons journey through free agency.
I'm pretty consistent saying the commissioner will say, "With the No. 8 overall pick the Falcons select…[insert name here] , edge rusher from [enter school here]!!!"
That said, it's all about what happens above the Falcons. There could be a run on edge rushers or offensive tackles or both. The Falcons have young safeties, but dare they pass up on safety Kyle Hamilton? That'd be tough. I think edge rusher, offensive tackle or cornerback is seems likely to be the move, unless a Hamilton-like difference maker falls in their lap.
Malcolm D'Souza from Columbus, Ohio
Hey Scott, first off, I'm a huge fan of the mailbag. I always love to read Bair Mail. Thanks for all the work you do. Now on to my question. What do you think about the Falcons picking up Marcus Mariota? I might be wrong, but I think his contract with Vegas is up this year. Mariota was a pretty solid player for the Titans, finishing with at least a 91.5 passer rating in four of his first five seasons. His career lowest yards/rushing attempt is also 5.2, and he even has one more rushing touchdown than Matt Ryan. Mariota had to deal with many coaching/coordinator changes in his first few seasons but still was pretty productive on field. I agree that we should keep Ryan for this next season, but what do you think about signing Mariota to sit behind him and maybe be a future starting Falcon?
Bair: This, my friend, is a good question. It doesn't reach for something unattainable (like Deshaun Watson) and it acknowledges Matt Ryan's back in 2022, which I think is highly likely. This is a real-world scenario that I like to discuss/ponder. Mariota is set to hit free agency, has a track record of starting and working as a backup. The Falcons may offer an opportunity to back Ryan up in 2022, have a package of plays designed for him to help the offense.
There's a key factor here:
Arthur Smith has firsthand experience with Mariota, as he was Titans offensive coordinator in 2019, when Mariota started the year and was benched for Ryan Tannehill. While all Falcons decisions are collaborative, Smith's opinion would weigh heavily here.
Don Macdonald from Marysville, Ohio
Matt Ryan is an amazing QB but sadly time exists. As he gets older it is clear he won't be a starter for the next 3 to 5 years. If you had to take any QB in this class with one of Atlanta's picks who would you take and where?
Bair: But, sadly, time exists?!? That was deep, Don. Pretty good writing, too. Ha. Might have to borrow that phrase for a story or two. Don't worry. I'll give you credit. Now on to your question. I haven't done any mock draft simulators yet and don't have a great grasp of this draft class yet, but I don't think this is the time to draft a quarterback high. If I'm going to take one, let it be a later-round project. In my opinion, this draft provides opportunity to bulk up around the quarterback.
David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa
Using some of your metrics, such as productivity vs cost over time, what appears to be the "worst" (non-team friendly) contract on the Falcons right now?
Bair: This is going to be an off-the-wall answer, but it's the Julio Jones deal. He's still on their books, and will account for $15 million in dead money in 2022, per overthecap.com. The Falcons had dead money with his deal last year as well. And, imagine if they didn't trade Jones. They would've paid a lot for him last year and wouldn't have gotten much production. The Falcons will get production from trading Jones next season, with the second-round draft pick Tennessee gave up for him ready for selection in spring.
Of those still playing in Atlanta, all four big Falcons contracts have their issues. Matt Ryan’s deal is just so massive in impact, with a $48 million cap hit that hinders the team's ability to do more with the roster. It would see hard to restructure it again, so the Falcons might have to live with it in 2022.
Isaiah Davis from Pamona, Calif.
So hello 👋 brodie I wanted to ask which guy if we pick at 8th who would you think Fontenot might make our first pick. Safety Kyle Hamiliton, Edge George Karlaftis, OT Charles Cross and why?
Bair: This will be quick. Kyle Hamilton all the way. I know it doesn't specifically fill a need, but he could be a game changer, a Kyle Pitts type on the other side of the ball. You don't pass those guys up over those you mentioned. Others would make me go back and forth, but Hamilton's the clear choice here. To me, anyway.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for a chance to be included in Friday's edition of Bair Mail. I'll also do an 'either/or' between NFL Draft prospects each mailbag, so include some of those as well.