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Bair Mail: On impact of Matt Ryan trade, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Sam Howell and what to do at No. 8 overall

We answer your questions, including why Terry Fontenot detests the word 'rebuild' in the latest mailbag


It has been a hot minute (or two) since the last Bair Mail went live. Anything happen between now and then? A few things, to be sure.

The Falcons made some bold moves regarding the quarterback position, exploring the prospects of a Deshaun Watson trade. They had been discussing a Matt Ryan trade well before that, and executed one with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday afternoon. They signed Marcus Mariota that same day, and he was in Flowery Branch Friday to sign his contract and meet with the press.



That's, well, a lot. And we haven't mentioned the Cordarrelle Patterson re-signing or the lost free agents or the pro-day circuit or that we're inching ever closer to the NFL Draft or, or, or.

You've posed a lot of good questions, and I can feel your passion in how they're phrased, whether your happy or upset with these moves. All sentiments are welcome here. This is a safe space. Ha.

Well, let's get right to it and open up Friday's mailbag:

Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.

Scott, Man what a week ,eh? I fully understand from the business and football side trying to see if you can trade for Watson. A team has to try to make itself better if it can. It didn't work out and that happens. Even if trading Ryan stings I get it, but disappointed in the 3rd round compensation. I felt like a couple of picks even if spread out over two years was more in line. Now, where are we going from here? Is this a total reset which I am OK with as long as I know what to expect going forward. Right now I am not sure what to expect.

Bair: Thanks for the question and the candor, Kerry. It's fair to raise an eyebrow at the return for Matt Ryan, but his massive contract, completely taken on by the Colts, factors in here. So does the salary cap space available after this move. So does the fact the front office was up against a ticking clock, with Ryan's roster bonus due on Monday afternoon. So does the fact Ryan and the Colts met and it was A. clear Ryan wanted to go there, and B. The Colts knew it.

Those elements will sap your leverage. Terry Fontenot said in a Wednesday press conference that he could've traded Ryan where he didn't want to go in an effort to up the compensation, but he didn’t want to do that after Ryan's 14 years of service to the organization.

Where are they going? On the hunt for a franchise quarterback, for one. On the hunt for edge rushers and receivers and offensive linemen and running backs, for another. It won't be a complete reset, but I can't imagine the Falcons doing anything to put the financial flexibility set up for 2023 in jeopardy.

Fenn Davis from Andover, N.H.

Hey Scott, it is with heavy heart that I say, the Matt Ryan era is over. Now we must start our search for our next franchise QB. How I'm looking at it right now is, start Mariota, DO NOT pick QB in this draft, tank the upcoming season and draft Bryce or C.J. with hopefully a top five pick. However, I have heard the name Sam Howell linked to us in a few articles around the NFL, I haven't seen his name in any mock drafts i've seen, so maybe take him with one of our second rounders if he is there. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this because I don't know too much about him.

Bair: Arthur Smith was at North Carolina's pro day – that's his alma mater – and saw Sam Howell throw. The former Tarheel is typically in the second tier of quarterback prospects, behind Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral. He could end up a late first-round pick or drift into the second.

He's known as a gamer who has some limitations, especially with ball placement and a compact frame for the position. I like Desmond Ridder from Cincinnati, who could be available in the same range as a better fit for the Falcons. He might not be around at No. 43 when the Falcons choose, so getting him might require a trade up or even back into the late first round.

Imre Bella from Budapest, Hungary

Hi Scott, a very-very sad day... but I wish the best for Matty, he deserves that chance. Back to business as usual, do you think we can expect a mini-exodus? Let's be honest, the prime of Grady and Deion Jones will probably not match with our newest prime... Grady's contract is a pain for this year and I guess he doesn't want to extend it? I think a late 1st or early 2nd round pick would be a great value for him. Furthermore, if AJ can maintain that level of coverage, we MUST make him the highest paid CB next year to keep him in the house.

Bair: There hasn't been a discussion of trading away some of their largest remaining contracts since the Matt Ryan trade. Grady Jarrett is entering the last year of his contract, so an extension would be a net positive, especially when the Falcons have money to pay him in the future. So could a trade, maybe closer to the deadline, for a team needing one dynamic player to push them over the top.

The Falcons really like Jarrett as a player and leader. Plus, he's a great ambassador for the team in the community. That said, he'll be someone to keep an eye on over the coming months. Deion Jones has a hefty contract but there's a lot of dead money associated with dealing or cutting him. That would seem difficult to lose those funds. In my opinion, they're better off keeping a darn good, athletic, modern linebacker in the lineup over losing both him and lots of dead money.

We take a look back over Matt Ryan's best snaps with the Falcons—in monochrome.

Bill Whitten from Killen, Ga.

Scott, Marcus Mariota contract is for 2 years so no chance the Falcons take a quarterback this year. Their recent history shows they heavily lean to the offensive side of the ball. So, no defensive player with pick #8. The roster is without a #1 receiver. Is there any doubt the 8th pick will be a receiver? The question is who do they rate as the best receiver? Which receiver do you think they will select?

Bair: I definitely wouldn't enter this NFL draft with many assumptions about what the Falcons will do. That includes Marcus Mariota. He's on a two-year deal that's reportedly a one-year deal with an option. Terry Fontenot also made it clear they were going to add to the quarterback room either through free agency or the NFL draft. We could see real competition for the starting quarterback spot, and Mariota seems ready for that.

I also wouldn't discount the Falcons taking a defensive player at No. 8, especially with all the quality edge rushers available in the top 10. I do think they’ll address the receiver spot in the draft, in the first or second round or both. They need a lot of help in that area. I think Arthur Smith prefers bullies at the position, so Drake London and Treylon Burks could fit the mold of big dudes who can break tackles.

In the second round, I like Skyy Moore from Western Michigan and Georgia product George Pickens.


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Gaz Hurst from England

A huge week of decisions for the Falcons. Seeing Matty Ice go was the end of an era. I get the Matt Ryan trade as a business decision, and I have 2 questions.

1) Do you think the way it was handled has damaged the perception of how the franchise does business and do you think that could affect which free agents we are able to sign?

2) Is this now a rebuild? With a view to the massive amount of cap space that is potentially available in 2023 and the decent amount of draft capital this year do you think the plan is to take a potentially a couple of wilderness years to reset the team?

Bair: Thanks for the questions, Gaz. Hope all is well across the pond.

1) I don't think the Ryan trade hurt the Falcons reputation with players. It actually might've improved it a smidge. They traded Matt Ryan to his preferred destination and took less compensation than they could’ve gotten elsewhere. Ryan respected that and the fact they were open and honest about their Deshaun Watson exploration. Players, in general, appreciate that.

2) The Falcons are not into the word "rebuild." Fontenot can’t stand it. I'll let him explain why.

"The reason we hate the word "rebuild" is because when we're talking to Casey Hayward and he's excited about coming home and competing right now," Fontenot said. "He's a real talented player that has done some really good things in this league. He's not coming somewhere to lose and he's not – again, Lorenzo [Carter], guys outside the building. When Younghoe [Koo] extends or when Jake {Matthews] extends, these guys are excited about going out there and competing.

"And yes, it's a challenge with all the dead money this year. It's a challenge but taking it all on this year – we're excited about what we're going to do this year because we're going to do the best we can and we're going to go out and compete, and then next year it's significant when you look at where we are.

"Again, I know you guys have all looked at it and the significant impact this will make on us next year, but we would never say that because it's just not fair. It's not fair to the players here. We've got 17 games next year, and we're going to go out and compete in every single one of them."

Call for questions

We're going to get the mailbag going (again) on a regular basis. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Monday's mailbag.


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