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Bair Mail: On Kyle Pitts, the 2021 NFL Draft class, Calvin Ridley and Terry Fontenot's big-picture plan

We answer your questions and talk holiday movies in this Friday mailbag


I'm up early on Christmas Eve writing today's Bair Mail with the My Little Pony holiday special on in the background.

Trust me, it's not by choice. My kids command the main TV most days – football is often watched on laptops – and the holiday season is no different. I've seen so much poorly made Christmas programming in recent weeks that it makes me long for the good stuff put out in my younger years. And before you assume that's the Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop-motion movies, no I'm not that old.


Home Alone was right in my wheelhouse. Christmas Vacation is awesome. A Christmas Story was an annual thing in my household. And, I know this will launch a whole dialogue, but Die Hard's not a Christmas movie. With all due respect to Jake Peralta, it's not a particularly good movie, either. Yeah. Bring on the insults. I'm ready. If we're choosing cheesy old action movies, I'll take Point Break every time.

Picking a favorite is tough, but I'm going with Kevin McAllister here. Home Alone it is. It's still funny and holds a special place, which probably tells you exactly how old I am. So that's my pick, and I'm sticking with it. And keep the change ya filthy animals.

And while I've certainly set off a whole discussion you all wanted to talk some football heading into the Week 16 matchup with the Lions and the fast-approaching offseason. So, let's get to all that in Friday's mailbag.

Mack Hickman from Houston, Tex.

Thank you for all that you have done this past season. You mentioned last week that the falcons needed to "continue" to draft well. I was a big proponent of Kyle Pitts before the draft and feel very good about the selection, but the rest of the class has been underwhelming when they play or can't seem to get on the field in general. My question to you is, why do you like the young players and do you think that any of these guys are legitimate foundational pieces for the team moving forward? I'd love to see Richie Grant on the field more and maybe they're just waiting until Harmon and Harris are gone; but it doesn't seem like the coaching staff has a lot of faith.

Bair: Thanks for the question, Mack. It's a good one. And I hate to start it with the old football cliché that it takes a few years to evaluate a draft class, but it's true. Judgements change, though I feel confident saying Kyle Pitts is an excellent pick. I really like Avery Williams as a return man, too.

We don't know about the others, even though most of them have received significant playing time. Jury's out on everyone else, including Richie Grant. Their evaluation of him as a safety might not pick back up until the spring and summer, with him working mostly in the slot. Fans are certainly intrigued by him. The plan was for Jalen Mayfield to develop outside the spotlight, but he was thrust into early action. That's rough. I do think it's fair to be critical of some rookie performers, but so much growth happens between the first and second NFL seasons that we can't mail out the report cards yet.

Here's one thing I don't get about this draft class: fans who genuinely don't like the Pitts pick. It's never about the player, always about the position. It's about picking a tight end at No. 4, that the Falcons should've taken a quarterback or traded down or gone for a standard premium position. I don't get that logic. Take the best player on the board, man. Pitts was that. Dude's a Pro Bowler in his rookie year. And the Falcons have so many needs they can't eliminate a player based upon the letters next to his name. And we all know Pitts isn't just a tight end. He's an offensive weapon. End of rant, I promise. Hopefully you all get my point.

Michael Hitt from Saint Simons Island, Ga.

When and how are the Falcons going to get out of "Salary Cap Hell"?

Bair: Great question, Michael. Straight and to the point question gets a straigh-and-to-the-point answer. It's not an overnight thing. It's not a one-year project. It's going to take some time and several prudent, often difficult decisions regarding players you like. They'll get an assist by a cap that's headed up again after a down year, but they have to bide time and get out from under some bloated contracts to create the space and flexibility to needed to reward players they draft and sign top free agents they want. I covered the Raiders when they got out of cap trouble. Strategies to do so are different, but that one took a few years, maybe three, for them to feel totally comfortable. But, again, no situation is the same.

That doesn't mean you can't compete in the interim. Drafting well is essential. ESSENTIAL. Productive, relatively cheap talent can cover some for contracts otherwise weighing a team down and preventing them from signing and re-signing the veterans that keep a roster strong and deep.


Jimmy M. Stanford from Griffin, Ga.

Are there any updates on Calvin Ridley?

Bair: Arthur Smith was asked about Calvin Ridley this week, as he is most every week, and his answer is most always the same. No update at this time. Ridley remains out dealing with a personal matter. He put out a statement a while back saying he's taking care of his mental health and hasn't spoken publicly since.

The Falcons will continue on without him, possibly for the last three games. That ultimately remains uncertain, but he hasn't practiced with the team in a long time.


James Epps from Gainesville, Ga.

Given the cap troubles we have, do you think it is better to keep making adjustments and try to carry on or just blow it up and suck bad for couple of years and start over?

Bair: Sounds like you're trying to say "rebuild," James without actually saying the word. Ha. GM Terry Fontenot has made it clear the Falcons aren't going to do that. They're going into each season trying to be competitive, doing that while getting right with the cap. I trimmed your question when it delved into Matt Ryan's status because I don't think his age enters into that equation. They aren't trying to win one while he's starting quarterback. They're just trying to win, deal with the contracts they have and select the players they need (and can afford) to usher in a period of sustained success.


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 Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. 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.

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