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Bair Mail: On Jeff Okudah, Desmond Ridder and NFC South contention, plus Olamide Zaccheaus

So many wanted to discuss the prospects of a reported trade that could bring Okudah to Atlanta that we spent a long time on it. 

Editor's note: The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

We knew the Falcons would be active this offseason. They had to be with all that salary-cap space. Even under that high standard, these last few months have been a trip.

Signing Jessie Bates III, Calais Campbell and David Onyemata enough for you? What about trading for Jonnu Smith? How about giving Chris Lindstrom a massive extension?


Still not enough. Then the Falcons reportedly trade for Jeff Okudah on Tuesday. If that becomes official, that could be a big deal.

There has been plenty to discuss this offseason, and we haven't even gotten to the draft yet. That's an awesome thing for us content creators and Falcons fans, making these Bair Mails particularly enjoyable. So, let's get to another one on this Wednesday afternoon.

Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.

I have seen mocks all over the place for the Falcons this year. With the trade for Okuda do you think that impacts taking a CB in the first?

Bair: There are multiple reports of the Falcons trading a fifth-round pick for Detroit Lions cornerback and 2020 No. 3 overall NFL Draft pick Jeff Okudah. There have been no formal announcements to this stage, so we're just engaging in speculation at this point.

With all that said, I think Falcons draft priorities could change if the Okudah trade were to become official. Okudah is coming off a strong 2022 season where he allowed a 59.7 completion percentage and gave up but one touchdown all year. Talent has never been in question with Okudah, but he has had some health issues holding him back in the NFL.

We don't know if he could thrive in Atlanta or if he can stay healthy, but it could shape up into a prove it (and contract) year for the Ohio State product. Between him and Mike Hughes and veteran Casey Hayward, there isn't a strong need to add another top 10 cornerback.

[Regarding another mailbag question about Hayward's future with the club if the Okudah trade goes down, it certainly increases the possibility of a cut -- he doesn't have any guarantees left on his deal and his release could provide $5 million in cap savings, per OverTheCap -- but nothing's set in stone.]

If Okudah doesn't play to his potential, then go cornerback next year in the NFL Draft. Right now, however, the Falcons could focus on other priorities – pass rusher, perhaps? – in the first round but continue to fortify the premium position later on.

That's just my two cents. We'll see what Terry Fontenot decides to do.


King Bred from Ellenwood, Ga.

Ridder has earned at least a look to see what he can be for us. With that said, it looks like they are going defense first and changing the culture and look of a desperate team. Should we be in win now mode with the NFC South being so wide open or not set expectations high and keep rebuilding? The playoffs are right there I think…

Bair: There's no doubt this Falcons roster has been upgraded…on paper. They're way more talented on defense, with greater size and speed at the receiver position. I'm betting they get after the quarterback more frequently than they have in years.

The offensive line returns virtually intact, with a chance for Matt Hennessy to win the left guard gig or for the Falcons to upgrade.

Now back to King's question. Can the Falcons seriously contend? They have the talent required to do so. Now they have to go play. If most of those additions realize potential, then it goes to your original topic: Desmond Ridder. If the Falcons quarterback plays well, then everything's on the table. If not, it'll be a whole lot harder.

While the NFC South was down across the board and still isn't the strongest division around, let's be real: The Panthers have gotten a lot better in free agency and could contend with tough defense and serviceable efforts from the No. 1 overall pick. Derek Carr could elevate the Saints. The Bucs seem down and aging, but there's plenty of talent left on that post-Brady squad.

You hate to place too much on the quarterbacks, but it's a premium position. If Ridder is good and these new guys perform, the Falcons can and should contend for the division crown.

Terry Blevins from Granite Falls, N.C.

Hey man, love reading these questions every week, been a falcon fan since 1971, my question is I was wondering about the status of Olamide Zaccheaus? Been a big fan of his and was just wondering if they plan on bringing him back, I know he's a free agent. Thanks. Tb

Bair: Good question, Terry. You're inquiry matched up with a few others so I thought I should address it here and relatively high in the mailbag. I, too, enjoyed Olamide Zaccheaus as a Falcons contributor. So did head coach Arthur Smith who has lavished praise on the receiver and called him one of his favorite pros despite them going to rival ACC schools – Zaccheaus went to Virginia, Smith went to North Carolina.

That said, the Falcons have tried to get both faster and bigger at the position, things Zaccheaus doesn't have have in excess. He is a solid possession receiver with a high completion percentage when targeted and didn’t have a single drop in 61 targets last season. For all those reasons, I would quite shut the door a Zaccheaus return, possibly after the draft. That said, sometimes guys can get more on the open market and Terry Fontenot said the team's happy for the player when they do.

If I'm OZ, I'm waiting to see what happens in the draft – the Falcons could well take a wideout – to see which team might off the best opportunity to contribute. Maybe that's in Atlanta. Maybe it's not.

Call for questions

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

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Grady Jarrett visited the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, home of Atlanta United FC, on Tuesday, April 11. Take a behind the scenes look at his visit where he toured the facility, talked to Atlanta United First Team and Academy players, and even took a turn with the mini mic, asking the important question... Football or Fútbol?

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