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Bair Mail: On Deion Jones, Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, Kaleb McGary and O-line battles

You questions get answers in this Thursday mailbag

The Falcons have had a busy couple of weeks. They executed what seems, at first glance, to be a sound NFL Draft strategy. They released their 2022 schedule. And then they conducted a rookie minicamp and continue to progress through the offseason program.


That's, you know, a lot for a short spring span.

It does provide, thankfully, plenty of Bair Mail fodder. There's plenty to discuss during this Thursday Bair Mail.

Damon E. Walker from Ellenwood, Ga.

Hello!! I have noticed that with the recent signing of Nick Kwiatkoski, the linebacker position is getting pretty deep. Considering the trend towards bigger linebackers from the Falcons thus far, is Deion Jones on the outside looking in now? With his current salary combined with the recent additions at his position, it sure looks like he's about to be traded. I don't know how releasing him would affect the cap, but either way it looks like we won't see Deion in a Falcons uniform this year. Your thoughts? Thanks for having me!

Bair: There's a healthy amount of competition at the linebacker spot, Damon, which is exactly what Arthur Smith wants in his position groups at this point of the Falcons transition period. They're trying to find short- and long-term solutions at the two inside linebacker spots, with several options to choose from. That includes Nick Kwiatkoski, Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker and second-round pick Troy Andersen. That could comprise a solid two-deep right there, and it doesn't include Deion Jones.

That's why so many in the mailbag, and on social media, are asking about Jones' future with the club. His has a large 2022 salary, with a significant dead money hit if he's moved or cut, per That's why it's so complicated to say if he could or should or will be moved. I would say this for certain: Jones is a talented player with a long track record of success. I think we can also admit he didn't have his best season in 2022, by his lofty standards.

Will he be moved? Never say never. It all depends on the value gained in return – that includes the future cap relief a trade could provide, with a post-June 1 designation – for Jones. The Falcons have been willing to trade major pieces, including Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, for compensation and desired cap relief. If that happens with Jones, the Falcons roster seems ready to absorb that loss. If he stays put, the Falcons gain a quality asset who could be a dominant defensive player at his best.

That's a long answer, but several have asked about Jones so I thought I'd paint as 3-D a picture as I can at this stage. Hope that helps.

The rookies and vets are out at Flowery Branch working together as a team for the first time.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott, some time back you went on record saying that the Falcons QB of the future wasn't on the roster. Do you still feel that way? If not, will it be Mariota or Ridder? Thanks.

Bair: Putting me on the spot, in May, aren't ya, Will? Ha. I did say that before Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder were acquired. Now that they're on the team, I would say maybe. Possibly, even. I reserve judgment right now, considering I haven't seen either guy work a full-speed practice in this Falcons scheme, let alone a game. It will depend on how they perform, but I think it's possible.

I'm more bullish on Mariota that most. I definitely don't think he's a mere placeholder. He was the No. 2 overall pick for a reason. He's super talented and supremely motivated to re-establish himself as a starter.

Ridder has moxie for miles, college tape is good from what I've seen, and, maybe most important of all, the dude’s a winner with the clutch gene. That's what the Falcons need, so it's possible Ridder pans out.

Or the Falcons have to dip back into the talent pool in 2023. That's why this season will be so interesting, in my opinion. We need to see who the Falcons have and who will become part of this young foundation.

Kevin Fitzpatrick from Conyers, Ga.

Looking over our roster I see loads of players with a chip(s) on their shoulders. Players with something to prove makes for a competitive team and that's what I expect from our 2022 Falcons- COMPETITORS. Chief among them is, maybe, Kaleb McGary.

Bair: To your point, Kevin, this NFL Draft class is full of chip-on-your-shoulder guys BY DESIGN. That's no coincidence, and it'll match the vibe/tone the Falcons are trying to create for this 2022 season.

It's interesting that you bring Kaleb McGary up. The Falcons didn’t exercise his fifth-year option for 2023, meaning he's entering a contract year. It that wasn't enough fuel for a career year, Germain Ifedi should be seen as legitimate competition at the right tackle spot, and I think that could be one of training camp's best battles. He looks freaking ripped this offseason, (see below for proof) but we'll see if he's ready for his best year.

I think there will be lots of open competition, outside some select spots, both before and after the season. That will probably include the left guard– Ifedi could be a factor there – and center spots along the offensive front.


Call for questions

It has been too long since we had regular Bair Mails. Sorry about that. Let's get them going again. Submit your questions for inclusion in future installments.


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