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Bair Mail: On Russell Gage, Calvin Ridley and Falcons receiver corps, Matt Ryan, drafting Georgia Bulldogs and more

Your questions get answers in a Friday mailbag


We're through the first week of the Falcons offseason, with the playoffs set to start this weekend. Gotta admit that it'll feel weird not covering a Falcons game on Sunday. For as crazy as the season is, I'm gonna miss it.

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith obviously wish they were still competing right now instead of their current reality; they will push hard and get creative finding the talent required to qualify in 2022.


We're talking about that in this Friday Bair Mail, and we're probably going to be pondering these issues until activity starts to ramp up later this offseason.

Let's get to all of your questions in this edition of the mailbag:

Maurice Higgins from Conyers, Ga.

I'm worried about our wide receiver corps what we gonna do if Calvin Ridley don't come back with us?

Bair: They need to do quite an overhaul on the position group whether Ridley stays or not. Right now, he and Frank Darby are the only receivers currently under contract for the 2022 season. Russell Gage and Tajae Sharpe are unrestricted. Olamide Zaccheaus is restricted.

If Ridley lands elsewhere, then it would be a full positional overhaul even if they were able to retain Gage and Zaccheaus. The team would have to go get fresh blood via free agency and the NFL Draft.

Terry Fontenot didn't elaborate on Ridley's status during a Tuesday press conference, only to say that they continue to support him. It’s possible he could be moved this offseason in trade. He could stick around. It's ultimately uncertain. Either way, the Falcons must enhance their group of skill players to help Matt Ryan and the offense do better.

They should retain some, especially Gage, if they can, get assets for Ridley if that's the path they choose and add new faces to faces to a group that needs both talent and depth.

Gabe Adams from Laramie, Wyo.

Hello Bair, Is it time to move on from Ridley, Debo, Jarrett and Mathews to get more picks? Fontenot has proven that he can find gems in drafts and free agency, so why not just overhaul the old regime, sans Ryan (given his contract).

Bair: As a group? No. The Falcons couldn't really even if they wanted to cutting or trading those guys would, per, create a staggering amount of dead money – they still have some associated with Julio Jones, too -- and would rob the team of their top talent. I would expect Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews to be here in 2022. Ridley remains somewhat uncertain for reasons we've already discussed. Don't forget that Fontenot is passionate that this will not be a rebuild. The Falcons are not going to tear it down to the studs. No way.

Darrell McDowell from Jonesboro, Ga.

I have to say I agree with you on Matt Ryan. I believe we are the only people that say we need to keep Matt. I my opinion he is a top 10 QB in the league always has put up good to great numbers the problem with Matt is he has no line we have 2 good linemen with Matthews and Lindstrom. I don't believe any QB in the league could play behind this line. I think we need to wait at least one more year to think about DRAFTING his replacement and instead work on replacement for the line. Mayfield showed some promise but needs lot of work. However, McGary and Hennessy need to go I will help pack their bags. how do you feel about those two?

Bair: I think Matt Ryan's somewhere in the top 15 and gets a whole lot better with some protection and an improved running back. Adding around Ryan will also help his successor thrive as well. It's tough to re-invest in a position you've (or a previous regime has) already used valued assets on, but, in my opinion, it's required at this point.

Ed S. from Atlanta

Since our Falcons have such a tight salary cap, why is the leadership so laser-focused on paying twice the amount of money for an ace OL to protect Ryan and his top salary when they can simply replace him with a young talented QB with the agility to scramble and make plays on the fly in this new era of football. It's time for drastic changes in order to achieve different results!

Bair: I see this argument a lot in the mailbag, so I'll address it here. I also think it pairs well with the answer just above. Adding a mobile quarterback is completely independent from beefing up the offensive line with draft assets or free agent dollars. Do you think the Cardinals or Ravens or Bills de-prioritize offensive line because Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen can run. Absolutely not. You don't get a mobile quarterback because it's trendy. You get the best possible talent and fit for your franchise. That player will have the best chance to succeed if the unit's strong around him, from the line to the skill positions. That should be the Falcons priority at this time.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott, thanks to all of you for keeping this going during the off season. My question: How do you feel about Nakobe Dean going to the Falcons in the first round? (Pretty sure I know how Tori would feel). I'd be OK talking a UGA guy every round possible this draft.

Bair: That's exactly who Hugh Douglas picked during our conversation Friday morning on 92.9 The Game. His seven-round mock also had a decidedly Georgia slant. Fans around here often want good players to stay local, and that makes some sense considering the caliber of the Bulldogs defense. There will be several expected to go high in the 2022 NFL Draft. That won't be a bigger factor than skill or makeup, but it there's an excellent fit that's also from a championship-caliber program, who knows how to win and how to play well under massive pressure, that would be a plus in my book.

Jason Phillips from Las Vegas, Nev.

I'm a little confused with the Best Player Available (BPA) philosophy that our GM TF will be using for the draft. I like the philosophy, but I can see a clear flaw in it. For example, what if the Falcons draft a QB in the first round of the 2022 & 2023 NFL draft because both years the BPA when the Falcons are ready to select happens to be a QB? I can't see us doing that simply because of the BPA philosophy.

Bair: There are exceptions to the rule, Jason. No kickers or punters in the first, no matter who good they are. Ha. And they wouldn't double up on a position like quarterback in consecutive years, where you only need one. And premium positions, I if I were GM, hold more weight early. So does depth in the draft. The overall message, and it's a good one, is to trust the NFL draft board and all the evaluations you've made in preparation.

Call for questions

There's plenty more to discuss as we move through the offseason, so we're going to keep this mailbag going strong. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Monday's Bair Mail.

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