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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, adding a veteran edge rusher, 2022 expectations, Julio Jones and more

We also compare talent on this roster to last year's in this Friday mailbag

Falcons training camp is off and running. Hip, hip, hooray!

I love this time of year, when optimism's high and you're learning about a team and its roster one practice session at a time. I take something from each one.


That should lead to some fresh topics in the mailbag, and there were plenty of good ones waiting for me in this one. Let's get right to them:

Justin Reed from Dayton, Ohio

My question is why make Desmond Ridder compete for starting QB he's proved himself in Cincinnati? I mean, if you look at the Bengals, they didn't waste time with joe borrow why waste time with Desmond? He was undefeated with UC. Falcons you are making the wrong move with Marcus!!

Bair: A few things on that, Justin. No. 1: There is not set starter yet. Marcus Mariota is the clear frontrunner, but Desmond Ridder will have every opportunity to earn the starting job with a stellar summer. We already know he had a strong spring.

There's no reason, however, to rush him into anything. I also don't think the Joe Burrow comparison fits here. Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick. While Ridder was the second quarterback taken, he was the 74th(!) player off the board. That's a huge difference. You want to bring young quarterbacks along the right way, without forcing them into bad situations. This league has tons of examples of talented quarterbacks wasted due to a poor environment or being rushed into action too early.

They don't need to do that here. That said, if Ridder earns it, he'll start. The Falcons aren't set in any way regarding the starting quarterback. Trust me on that.

Jason Howell from Boca Raton, Fla.

Do you think should bring in Dwight Freeney to mentor & our edge rushers somethings the way he did with Vic Beasley's breakout season. Can we bring in Dwight Freeney or John Abraham to mentor & teach our edge rushers how to get sacks?

Bair: It's an interesting concept, Jason, considering the Falcons don't employ an edge rusher older than 26. Adding a veteran could help bring a young corps along. He would also take snaps away, which isn't ideal for a team trying to develop a young foundation. There aren’t a ton of great options on the market, but someone like Benson Mayowa could be a mentor and a sub-package player. Why not see if Dee Ford is healthy and willing to take a prove-it deal? The Falcons are always exploring options, but it would have to be the right fit and the right price, and someone who would deter development.

Don't forget that OLB coach Ted Monachino is an outstanding coach and developer of talent. He can mentor these young players if a vet isn't added. Again, I don't think you can add a vet at the expense of a young prospect's roster spot. The Falcons aren't in that place. They're trying to win but are also building for the future.

Gaz Hirst from England

We've had a good draft and solid free agency and we are coming off a 7-win season after we were written off yet we still were in the playoff hunt till late in the season. I think we're a better team than people are giving us credit for. Also guess I better address the elephant in the room.... What do you think of Julio signing with the Bucs? Rise Up

Bair: Thanks for reaching out, Gaz! Always love hearing from Falcons fans abroad. I would agree that expectations are low, and I think the Falcons are fine with that. This is a prove-it for new veteran signings, new draft picks and those who remain. It's a prove-it year for the coaches and staff, trying to show everyone they deserve more respect despite this clearly being a transition year with tons of dead money on the books. Can they do it? Time will tell.

Regarding Julio Jones coming to the NFC South, it's an interesting move. He's scheduled to play the Falcons twice this season, including in Atlanta. No telling how the fan base will react to seeing him in rival colors. That's always a tough moment for everyone involved. He's getting on in years and may not be his vintage best, but he's still a dynamic threat the Falcons must account for when they play Tampa Bay. It will be odd seeing him in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but on the opposing sideline.

Matthew Starks from Lithonia, Ga.

I really enjoy your sensible approach to assessing where we are as a team. I have heard so many pundits (especially on local talk radio) describe this team as being low in overall talent. But when I look at each position group, I see us as being the same or better at each position with the exception of QB. But I have always been a believer that that position gets too much credit and too much blame at times. Look at an MVP QB and you generally have a lot of good pieces around him. Sometimes schemes make talent. (Okay preamble over). What is your overall view of this year's talent versus last year?

Bair: Interesting question, Matthew. It might take me all camp to answer it with authority, but my gut says this year's team is deeper. The secondary is way better. The offensive line has some options. The skill players are more intriguing, especially if you take Calvin Ridley out of last year's equation (which you should).

The one position that makes me waffle: Quarterback. Matt Ryan was a proven commodity who could still sling it and command a huddle and captain a locker room. We don't know what Marcus Mariota and/or Desmond Ridder will be yet. That one position could wash the others but, that said, I believe the roster is improved and, overall, is in a better place.

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