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Bair Mail: On Desmond Ridder, Deion Jones, Falcons salary-cap situation and preseason position battles

We discuss all that and more in this Thursday, pre-joint practices mailbag

The dog days of this Falcons preseason have come and gone. Now it's on to the fun stuff.

They'll travel north on Thursday afternoon to prep for two joint practices and then a game against the host New York Jets. The Falcons will fly back home, take a rest day and follow the same cycle while hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars.


After that it's cutdown day and then it's on.

We're going to learn so freaking much about the Falcons over that vital, competitive stretch.

That will lead to plenty of questions, comments and progress reports on the state of this current roster. So let's get to some of them in the last Bair Mail before things get really real:

Cody McCoy from Washington

After the first pre-season game, are we overhyping Desmond Ridder? If his last ditch heave hadn't been completed, he would have finished with a passing stat line of 9 for 21 for 82 yards and a TD, all of which came against backup/practice squad level players. I worry there is going to be significant fan/media pressure to put him in a starting role too quickly. Thoughts?

Bair: I don't know if there's more or less of a push to get Desmond Ridder in the action sooner due to his Lions performance. I think it's clear, from what we've seen all summer, that Marcus Mariota is set to start Week1 and beyond. That has been consistently reflected in our reporting no matter what some recent YouTube commenters have said.

Mariota has been the unquestioned QB1. He has been the better quarterback to this point. He deserves the opportunity he's expected to receive.

It's not fair to assume someone like Ridder, taken No. 74 overall, to be a plug-and-play starter roughly halfway through the preseason. If he had zero flaws, he would've been taken a lot earlier. That said, he's smart and talented and cares a great deal about his craft. And he is getting better, with more work remaining.

Rob Smith from South Dakota

Why is the media team writing off Deion Jones? After seeing the first preseason game I didn't see the hype on Walker and Evans. You'd have to think Deion Jones is still the best LB on the Falcons.

Bair: I can't speak for "the media," but I don't think we've ever dismissed Deion Jones' talent, sterling resume or his ability to make a profound impact. We're just trying to paint a full picture, one that includes in ongoing rehab from a reported shoulder injury, the Falcons depth at the position and the possibility that he'll be traded for possible compensation and definite salary-cap benefits.

There's a ton going on with this situation and we can't ignore any of it. We can't simply gloss over your points, either, Rob. Jones is a really, really good defender. He can cover and tackle and blitz. He's fast and agile and can be super productive at the top of his game. I also agree that he has the best combination of talent and track record on the team. The Falcons are still waiting for him to get healthy and cleared to practice. It will be interesting to see what happens at that point.

Jim R from Roanoke, Va.

I 've been a fan for 50 + years and I just don't feel good about the coming seasons. Thankfully we have CP,,AJ,.Grady and Pitts to name a few bright spots but little else IMO and we need to quit blaming it ALL on the cap.

Bair: I don't think it's fair to blame it all on the cap, Jim, but it plays a massive role in the team's current level of talent. So does too many missed draft picks in the last four-five years, but the financial component can't be overlooked. While we don't need to do a deep dive into the Falcons current cap situation, they currently have $63.3 million in dead money against the cap.

That means the Falcons can't use that amount on players in 2022. Would the team be considerably better by spending that $63.3 million on talent. It most certainly would. They're taking on all this dead money, essentially at once, which creates room for optimism they'll have more to invest in good players. While this number will go up, the Falcons only have $14k in dead money heading into 2023 and an estimated $41 million in cap room, per over the Cap.

So they'll have more to use on talent next year, but the Falcons will only improve if they spend wisely and, most importantly, continue to draft and develop well.

We take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions in the first preseason game of 2022.

Nick Yingling from Dayton, Ohio

Hey Scott I really enjoy the content you and the team put out on our Birds! Really top notch in my book, but on to my question. Based on your observations, it seems like the starting spots have been largely settled on the O Line outside of Center? Who in your mind has been the most consistent at that spot Drew Dalman or Matt Hennessy?

Bair: Your assumptions seem correct, Nick. The three position battles along the offensive line seem to have boiled down to one, though there hasn't been much push back for Kaleb McGary at right tackle and Elijah Wilkinson at left guard. As you note, the center battle is ongoing and seems to be tight. It would seem, however, that Matt Hennessy might have a slight edge. We'll know more this week, with joint practices and then a game against the Jets.

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