Now that the 2022 NFL season is in the rearview, the NFL Combine, free agency, and the draft is coming up fast. I just know Falcons fans have been anticipating this time of year all season long. I've seen the comments on Twitter. We are officially here, y'all.
- Arthur Blank more optimistic about Falcons' direction 'than I've been in many, many years'
- 'I love our young quarterback': Arthur Blank discusses Desmond Ridder
- Bair Mail: On Tyler Allgeier, CP, Marcus Mariota and trading up in the NFL Draft
- Question of the Week: Who do you re-up in 2023?; Analyzing Nielsen, Gray hires; Pressing defensive needs
In this Wednesday edition of Bair Mail, I'll be taking over my first mailbag (Ashton Edmunds). Shouts to Scott for the lob.
Okay, cool. Now, let's get to your questions.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hi, Ashton, welcome. Watching the Super Bowl, I was amazed at how often (and how effective) Hurts ran the ball. Do you think Ridder could be used in the same way? Do you think Arthur would even try running him that much? Thanks.
Edmunds: Will, I appreciate the welcome and your question. Jalen Hurts definitely put on a masterclass in the Super Bowl, which is something he's been doing all season. The man is the truth and the wild part about it is he's on 24 years old. That's crazy right?
Okay, now on to your question. I do think Desmond Ridder can be used in the same way. He's shown that he's a mobile quarterback who can extend plays with his legs. When you look back at Ridder's collegiate career at Cincinnati, he finished with 2,179 rushing yards. Through four games with the Falcons, he contributed 64 rushing yards to Atlanta's dominant rushing attack. Will he be like Hurts? I'm not going to say all of that, but I do think he can emerge into a solid dual-threat quarterback with time and development.
Do I think Arthur Smith will try running him that much? Yes, and we've seen a few plays this season where Marcus Mariota and Ridder had plays designed for them to rush. I'm sure if Smith knows his quarterback can run the ball, in addition to his running backs, why not use that to your advantage? It creates more options on offense and makes it difficult for any defense to defend. So, to answer your question, I do think Smith will leverage having a mobile quarterback in his offense.
Kevin Weakley from Roswell, Ga.
With free agency only one month off, and with the stated, deep edge-rusher pool with this year's draft class, what do you see the Falcons brass preferring? Would it be a mix of both, in terms of edge rushers and interior lineman (i.e., one from the free-agent pool, plus one draftee, for each area)? Would they also prefer a relatively-high draft pick, at corner, over a free-agent signee? Premium starters are needed in all three of these areas, and I wonder if the front office has a preferred mix in mind.
Edmunds: Good question Kevin. There are a ton of elite players hitting the market this offseason including Daron Payne (who would be a great addition alongside Grady Jarrett), Robert Quinn, Brandon Graham and Marcus Peters. The list goes on and on. With the Falcons projected to have the second-most cap space in 2023 (nearly $60 million) and a top-10 draft pick, I think they'll leverage both free agency and the draft to acquire much-needed depth. In Arthur Blank's 21 years as the Falcons' owner, having this much cap space is a first for him, which is why he's optimistic about this offseason.
"I'm more optimistic than I've been in many, many years," Blank said in an interview with AtlantaFalcons.com on Feb. 8. "I don't think it's, 'Oh, you're just optimistic because you own the team.' Really, it doesn't have anything to do with that. It has to do with looking at the facts as they are and sizing up the roster the way it is and having the freedom that we've finally found ourselves in going into 2023 this year. I think it bodes well for us."
The Falcons are definitely in a healthy spot to elevate this roster. I see Atlanta taking an edge rusher or interior defensive lineman at No. 8 overall because of the struggles those position groups faced in the previous two seasons. To your last point, I agree that premium starters are needed to flesh out the roster. Acquiring a veteran cornerback like James Bradberry through free agency to compliment A.J. Terrell would be beneficial. But, with all that being said, the Falcons have a few different routes they could take as free agency and the draft nears.
Stanley Hardaway from Atlanta, Ga.
What do you think about the Falcons drafting another running back like Blake Corum to help the running game?
Edmunds: I think University of Michigan product Blake Corum is a quality running back and could be a solid addition to this core group. But, I don't necessarily think the Falcons need another running back right now. The run game was honestly the Falcons' bread and butter during the 2022 season. I think they should use their draft capitol elsewhere to fill in areas that need it most. Towards the end of the season, Tyler Allgeier emerged as the Falcons' feature back which created more opportunities for Cordarrelle Patterson at the wide receiver.
Allgeier might have been the biggest steal in the 2022 draft but that's a conversation for another day. What he showed his rookie year is that he could be Atlanta's long-term solution at the running back position. And, with Cordarrelle Patterson having another year on his contract, I think the Falcons are set at running back for 2023. Plus, you still have Avery Williams and Caleb Huntley who wore both key contributors in the rushing attack, though it's still uncertain when Huntley will return to the lineup after an Achilles' tendon injury. So, if the Falcons were to draft another running back, I think they should wait until 2024.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the next Bair Mail installment.
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.