We've got a Super Bowl matchup after Sunday's conference title games, with the Rams and Bengals set to square off for the championship.
We've also got an NFC South shakeup with Tom Brady reportedly retiring and Sean Payton stepping away as Saints head coach. The Falcons suddenly have the division's best quarterback and a golden opportunity to move up the divisional hierarchy by making the right moves.
- Falcons Breakdown: QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, OL, DL, OLB, ILB, CB, S
- Rookie Review: Kyle Pitts, Richie Grant, Jalen Mayfield, Darren Hall, Drew Dalman, Ade Ogundeji, Avery Williams, Ta'Quon Graham, Frank Darby, Feleipe Franks
- Question of the week: What do the Falcons do with Matt Ryan?
Not sure if that heightens the importance of this offseason, but there's a real chance to take a step in the right direction if the Falcons can shore up the defense, especially, and win a bunch of games while executing the grand plan to stock this roster the right way.
We're diving into ways to do that in Monday's Bair Mail. Let's get to your questions about what the Falcons could and should do this offseason.
Victor Atkins from Port Clinton, Ohio
Good morning, sir! Just saw a report by SBNation that said Falcons fans believe QB is the #1 need. I'm baffled by this. How can anyone think this is the most pressing need? Do you have any stats you can lay out or put a link to that might give these doubters in Matt Ryan something to think on? Maybe even a comparison to other QBs that are winning for their teams. Matt Ryan is a franchise QB. OUR QB. And I hope he retires a falcon or finds a team to win a SB with before retirement so as to silence his critics.
Bair: I've tried Victor. I have used numbers. I have written entire columns extolling Matt Ryan’s virtues. Those attempts never take. I can't convince those who want Ryan gone that he should stay. Can't do it. And I've stopped trying.
I can, however, explain why I believe he’ll be the quarterback in 2022 and likely beyond. I believe that resonates, considering his level of play, contract status and availability of better options either in the draft or what would be a very complicated trade (see next question). I believe it's highly likely Ryan's the Falcons quarterback in 2022. And I think that's a good thing.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
OK, Scott, you're the Falcons GM for a minute. The Bucs are desperate for a QB and they approach you about Matt Ryan. Would you do it if they offered enough back? And what would that package look like? Two 1's and two 2's? More? Finally, if this did happen how would it affect the cap? Thanks.
Bair: Hey Will. Thanks for the question. I can't imagine any scenario where Matt Ryan would get traded within the division. I also can't imagine the Falcons giving Tampa the best QB in the division, someone who would thrive with that set of skill players and probably make them a title contender in a snap. Ryan playing (and possibly beating) the Falcons twice a year is an untenable situation.
That said, let's extract the second part of your question about compensation required to even consider a Matt Ryan deal. It'd have to be high, and in order to split his cap hit, it'd have to happen after June 1. But, if they wait that long, they'll already have paid him $7.5 million in a roster bonus. So that's not ideal, either. See why this concept is so hard to execute? In terms of a price, it'd better start with the first-round pick and build a bit from there. Maybe and 1 and a 3?
Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.
Scott, it seems like that you want Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton to slide to our #8 pick in the first round of April's nfl draft, and I wouldn't mind it either, but don't you think that he's too good of a safety prospect that he probably won't last that long, and there's a good chance another team ahead of us could possibly draft him?
Bair: I wouldn't say that I have a preference right now, Charlie. I think Kyle Hamilton is an extraordinary player and, if he's there at No. 8, the Falcons would have to think long and hard about his selection regardless of the fact that safety is in a decent spot.
He might be too good to pass up. I agree with you that I don't think he'll make it that far and the Falcons won't have an option to take him at No. 8. My point with Hamilton is this – you don't pass up dynamic, once-in-a-blue-moon players (like Kyle Pitts) regardless of where they play.
Take a look at some of our favorite images of Matt Ryan and the entire Atlanta Falcons squad from the 2021-22 season.
Jeremy Smith from Newnan, Ga.
Should the Falcons strongly consider drafting some players from UGA? Many of them would be a great help for this team, especially on defense. That's where we strongly need help.
Bair: Thanks for the question, Jeremy. I get this one a lot, and Michael Human asked about Jordan Davis in the mailbag. I would say that prioritizing someone from Georgia if he's lower on their draft board isn't going to happen. The Falcons will take the best player regardless of school. I would say that playing for a major program operating under pressure to win every single game, in front of massive crowds, would be a factor. The NFL game would not be too big for him, and the Bulldogs obviously have some defenders who would help a pro defense.
When it comes to Davis, I don't think the Falcons are in position to take him. No. 8 seems too high, especially for someone who might end up a two-down player. It could work with a trade down, and he would fit what Dean Pees likes to do. While fans would love adding a Georgia player, keeping someone local can't be a priority over the best available option.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Wednesday'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.