Welcome, everyone to a Wednesday edition of Bair Mail. There are plenty of topics you'd like to discuss about the Falcons and their future, including top free-agent signings, the new receiver crop and the team's quarterback situation.
- McElhaney: Five observations from Falcons offseason program
- Drake London on first NFL offseason program, Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder
- What we learned from Day 2 of Falcons minicamp
- Finding the Falcons rookie class: Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen; Desmond Ridder; DeAngelo Malone, Tyler Allgeier, Justin Shaffer
Let's waste zero time – I remember y'all's stance on preambles – and get right to them:
James Tate from Glendale, Ariz.
Everyone talks constantly about our draft, which looks really good, but not as much about the free agents the Falcons have picked up. I think a lot of fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by our acquisitions such as Rashaad Evans and Anthony Firkser. I really think Terry and Arthur have done a great job in picking up players that will fit our schemes and make a real impact without breaking the bank. Thoughts?
Bair: You're right, James, to say most fans focus on the 2022 NFL Draft class. There's hope for the future in that young crew. The free agents are largely here on one year deals, trying to earn longer-term contracts from the Falcons or another team. I will agree with you that this year's crop is better than last year's. I really like Rashaan Evans and Anthony Firkser.
That said, I'm going in a different direction with the free-agent signing I'm most interested in. Lorenzo Carter is my pick, someone I think could have a true breakout season in Dean Pees' system. He closed out last season with five sacks in as many games and has the athleticism and frame to excel in this defense. He'll get a chance to play a ton, likely on all three downs, and create real havoc. I believe he'll be able to do exactly that providing a real lift on the defensive side of the ball. While he's only signed for the 2022 season, Carter's just 26 years old and, if he pans out, could end up staying here and being part of the team's expanding young foundation.
The veterans and rookies were out on the field during Minicamps this week putting in some extra work and interacting with fans before the summer break.
K. King from Atlanta, Ga.
Hi BAIR, I am hoping we can keep some of the height we have at the receiver position. Can you imagine being on the 5yd line and I bring in a bunch formation with London, Tate and Pitts and I have Fitzpatrick going in motion to that same side. You heard it here first. That's going to be my NBA package.
Bair: Arthur Smith is a huge NBA fan, especially the Memphis Grizzlies, so he'll love the name of your package. He may have one already. Ha. Even with all that height you mentioned, you're still forgetting trade acquisition Bryan Edwards. The dude is 6-foot-3 and can pluck passes out of the sky like those other guys.
I do think all that height will help the Falcons move the chains, especially on third down. We're also talking about big catch radiuses for each guy, which will help the Falcons quarterbacks. Ultimately, though, these guys have to create at least some separation. If they can do that, and snatch passes in heavy traffic and win 50-50 balls, the Falcons will be far better at the receiver spot than they were a year ago.
Sharone Ralston from Decatur, Ga.
Hi; my dad was so excited to see his question in print last week so he has another one which me, his niece also is interested in getting your thoughts on. We find it so frustrating that on the one hand we read the Falcons are in a (sort of) rebuilding season this year and yet sorts analysts write that if Mariota or Ridder doesn't have a strong season then the Falcons should draft a QB in 2023. Shouldn't they esp. Ridder have at least 2 seasons to develop along with the rebuilding team? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Bair: I agree with you that young players need a few years at least to develop before we make grand judgements on who they'll be as professionals. That shouldn't, however, prevent the Falcons from picking someone at a draft pick's position.
That's especially true when we're talking about a third-round pick. It's not the same type of investment as a first-round selection, where you'd show real commitment to a quarterback especially. The bottom line is this: you do whatever you have to do if you believe someone is a top-tier franchise quarterback. If the Falcons believe C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young or anyone else can be an elite talent, you take him. Period. Full stop.
It would obviously be helpful to know what you have in Desmond Ridder and Marcus Mariota in 2022, and the coaching staff will have a solid take on those guys after a season of practice and play. While the Falcons have two new quarterbacks to start the post-Matt Ryan, we have no clue if either guy is a long-term solution at quarterback. Answering that question will be key, maybe the most important thing during 2022. We're definitely going to talk about it a ton.
Ricky Farley from N.C.
What's good buddy. My questions are, which undrafted rookie stands out to you the most so far and which 2nd and 3rd year players (other than the obvious stars) do you think will have a big year?
Bair: These questions are always tough to answer before we get to training camp, because we haven't seen these guy in pads yet. That eliminates any bold predictions for the linemen. So I'll go with guys who can shine in 7-on-7s instead. I would say that receiver Jared Bernhardt has flashed, especially for a lacrosse player just returning to football over the last year-plus. He's shift and a tough cover who could be good in the slot.
Linebacker Nate Landman stood out a few times during the offseason program. While his position is impacted, I think there's a chance for him to find a spot with solid special teams play while providing depth at linebacker. I think there's a possibility for a defensive lineman to land on the 53-man, but we'll hold judgement on those guys until they can start making real contact.
Rick D. from Dunwoody, Ga.
Longtime reader, first-time questioner. Did I see on the social media recently that you're an Oklahoma softball fan? They have an amazing program, that's for sure. And if you're a fan of OU, I'm sure you've seen their baseball team is doing pretty good in the Men's College World Series too! Anyway, Go Falcons!
Bair: I think you're referring to this tweet from our football communications director, David Bassity, a noted Oklahoma fanatic who also lives in Dunwoody. What a shocking coincidence!
There was a friendly wager over an Oklahoma-UCLA softball game that pitted our alma maters against each other. The payout: The loser had to wear a shirt from the winning school in the size of the winner. As a note, I'm 5-foot-7 only if my hair is spiked just right. Bassity might be 7 feet tall without shoes on.
Oklahoma won, which is probably better for everyone. It was much easier for me to rock a XXL than him squeezing into a sch-medium.
Call for questions
Let's keep the mailbag full, especially with a Friday Bair Mail on the horizon. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the end-of-week edition.