The Falcons season is over, but Bair Mail rolls on. We'll keep this mailbag open throughout the offseason, with installments coming at you three days a week as we did when games were going on.
I'm looking forward to discussing what you all want to discuss about a Falcons team ready to embark on a pivotal offseason that will shape the course of the 2022 campaign where improvement will be expected.
Finding talent upgrades is required to do so, and this time of year provides opportunities to acquire them. That's why offseasons provide optimism and hope for better, which is possible despite the well-documented salary-cap concerns.
That's what we'll discuss in these Bair Mails, as we take you through the offseason. And keep checking the website. We've got big plans and some awesome content coming down the pike we can't wait for you to see.
Well, let's get into this mailbag. You've got questions; we've got answers.
Imre Bella, Budapest, Hungary
Hi Scott, greetings from Hungary, appreciate your tremendous job you have done covering this team!
Do you think Terry Fotenot takes the possible compensatory picks into account when he makes a decision? Oluokun and Gage were outstanding in the second half of the season, they are probably going to receive better offers on the market than what we are able to make.
Second question: don't you think our first priority should be the contract extension of Jarrett's contract? First, he should remain with us, second - and even more important - this move could (almost) double our cap space.
Bair: Imre! Love hearing from Falcons fans abroad, especially when they come with good questions.
I'm gonna answer your second one first. While the Falcons restructured several deals last offseason, they didn't touch Grady's deal. Found that interesting. Will they extend him this offseason, as you suggest, or just play the deal out? Jarrett wasn't getting into the future during his last press availability, but it will be interesting to see what comes next for him. He's an outstanding player – maybe a better human – who makes a huge impact even though his numbers were down in this scheme. In my opinion, he's a player you build around. They have to make the money work and avoid paying in the future for past performance. They also can't structure a deal with a ballooned cap number down the line to get out of trouble today. It's an interesting case study to follow this offseason, as Jarrett enters a contract year.
You're the other topic: Compensatory picks are always of benefit, and the Falcons are in position to get some with free agents leaving at a higher clip than they'll come in. But…I don't think they'll shy away from signing Russell Gage or Foye Oluokun if they can. Compensatory picks wouldn't factor into those decisions, in my opinion.
Mary-Ellen Tulper from Kennesaw, Ga.
I am a faithful Falcons fan. I don't like seeing Matt Ryan get hit so much. He needs more protection! This draft season you should pick a couple of really BIG players to see that he is protected! I am a very loyal fan win or Lose! I miss Julio Jones and Roddy White. I don't want to lose Matt Ryan!
Bair: I agree Mary-Ellen, that the Falcons have to protect Matt Ryan better. Proof of that: Matt Ryan was hit 130 times this season. That's a league high by a long shot. They need better from left guard, center and right tackle. Helping the offensive line should be a major focus of the offseason despite the fact they've invested heavily in it in recent seasons.
Jackson Szabo from London, England
Hi Scott, thanks for this season's coverage - it has been enjoyable to follow. My question is around the cap situation. We've heard all year about how bad our cap situation is but little on why it is bad in detail? It seems amazing to me that we can have a team which such sparse talent and yet be in one of the worst league situations financially. Who is the big money sitting with on the team? When you compare us to a team like The Rams who seem to have stars at every position but are still in a spot to sign OBJ and trade for Von Miller it seems like something was drastically wrong with us? Any insight into this as we approach the Offseason would be great!
Bair: Thanks for the question, Jackson. The Falcons are in some salary cap trouble with a group of high salaries that have been restructured with money still on the books. Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, Jake Matthews and even Grady Jarrett fall into that category. Per overthecap.com, $114 million in cap space is tied up in those four. Getting rid of those players, all top talents, would create massive amounts of dead money that wouldn't help the Falcons much, either. In my opinion, they just have to ride it out a bit, especially in Ryan's case.
It'll take time to get out from under the weight of those deals, Ryan's especially, which will free up the space required to be flexible going after free agents.
David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa
in my opinion, the "best available player" vs "draft for need" is a debate that has no easy answers, but can you explain your rationale behind your belief? I believe that if our biggest need is pass rush (which it is, among others) that's who I'm drafting. If the "best player available" on the board is a Quarterback, I'm not sure I'm picking him. We have quite a bit of needs, so chances are whomever we pick can only help us. Thoughts on BPA vs need?
Bair: I’m a big BPA guy, especially considering how many needs the Falcons currently have. They aren't a team that's, for example, one edge rusher away from Super Bowl consideration. They have need at several spots, including the premium positions typically targeted in the first round. That includes edge rusher, offensive tackle, receiver and cornerback, where the Falcons need upgrades.
Terry Fontenot addressed this debate on Tuesday. Here's what he had to say:
"We always want to be a team that doesn't reach for needs. And we go into the draft with needs, and you know you want to fill those needs, but you always want to take the best player on the board and not reach for something. I think we think that's how you make mistakes. So, it's an ongoing process. The college staff has been grinding all year. Now it's to a point where the coaches are going to get involved in that process. It's going to be a collaborative effort. We'll make sure we bring in the best players we can."
Thomas Thrasher from Ellenwood, Ga.
Why is it when you talk about replacing Matt Ryan, it's like is a hands off subject. For the many ticket holders like myself who attend home games and watch an immobile quarterback, who cannot throw the long ball with no velocity and cannot extend plays, this team will continue to be mediocre. Even though we won seven games we beat no one with a winning record which does not even qualify this team to be in the playoffs. I think the team should make a play for [Deshaun] Watson by any means necessary.
Bair: I have an opinion on Matt Ryan, Thomas, that many people don't share. That's okay. You're welcome to disagree, and I'll give you the space to do so. I don't think, however, trading for Deshaun Watson is the answer. It might cost two or three first-round picks. That's way too much for a team with tons of needs, especially for someone with some legal entanglements. I can't see that one happening. I'm of the belief that Ryan's successor will come from the NFL Draft.
Call for questions
Let's keep the good questions coming. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.