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Bair Mail: On Terry Fontenot, retooling (not rebuilding) and the state of the Falcons roster

Your questions get answered in this Falcons mailbag



There I said it. Tap, tap, tap.

After spending parts of three straight Bair Mails defending Matt Ryan, I'm taking a break. A vocal minority refuses to listen to logic, reason and reality when it comes to the Falcons quarterback, who will have a bust in Canton someday. His career numbers will be higher than they are now because he's not done.

Just listen to Arthur Smith. Or Ryan himself. They'll tell you.

Or, you know, live in a land of false logic where Ryan's the cause of everyone's problems. He isn't. Like every other quarterback, he needs a solid team around him.

That's what Terry Fontenot and Smith are trying to build around Ryan and his successor.

I mean, isn't that freaking obvi-…deeeeep breath. And exhale.

In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, serenity now, serenity now.

And we're good. Rant over. Let's move on to new topics in a Wednesday edition of Bair Mail.

Jimmy Graham from Evans, Georgia

Some history! I am an Atlanta native living in Evans, Georgia. I sold hot dogs at the first Falcons game in 1966 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. I have been a season ticket holder for years. I simply share that to let you know that I am really a Falcons fan!! Now to my question! Lol. I see the Falcons retooling not rebuilding?

Bair: Thanks for the submission, Jimmy. I normally don't include submissions of fans showing their street cred but having solid hot dogs at the first-ever Falcons game is one I couldn't ignore. That gets you a gold star and a question answered, if you answer one of mine. How much was a hot dog back then? I might need photo evidence. And, if you've got a picture of you selling them at Fulton County Stadium, send it. I'll run it in the next mailbag.

On to the actual question. Astute observation, my friend. The Falcons are NOT rebuilding. Fontenot made that perfectly clear in an exclusive interview with this website.

There are two schools of thought here with struggling teams with salary cap issues. Tear it down to the studs, eat dead money for breakfast, lunch and dinner, suffer through multiple seasons and slowly rebuild through the draft.

The Falcons went the other route, renegotiating some deals to create wiggle room without losing top talent. That might slow the cap relief, but the Falcons can work through it by spending smart and drafting well. That will increase competitiveness in the short term while Fontenot and Smith fortify the roster and, when it's time and they find the exact right guy, they'll go get a quarterback of the future. If they get that pick dead right, it's on.

Jake Stevens from Gainesville, Ga.

Since being in Atlanta, what are your impressions of the Falcons from a talent standpoint from where you came from. Where was that again?

Bair: I came from the Bay, but not Tampa. It wasn't Green, either, as someone guessed last week. It was a smidge farther west, covering the Raiders and a 49ers Super Bowl run. And, as you know, Smith doesn't like making comparisons. Neither do I. They're never terribly fair, and don't really provide proper context to an evaluation.

I will say, Jake, That there's some talent on this roster. Check out our Falcons Building Blocks series. There are several quality players working on rookie deals who can set a young foundation for the franchise. Think A.J. Terrell, Calvin Ridley and Chris Lindstrom and the like. Fontenot's first draft class has real potential. A few big hits outside Kyle Pitts could get this team going.

While that's the positive, let's be honest and admit the Falcons need more talent in the trenches, or they need those currently on the roster to develop and step up. They need depth and top-tier talent off the edge. Grady Jarrett needs help inside. While competition is good, having three uncertain positions along the offensive line is not ideal. In a perfect world, you have five maulers and versatile backups who know their role. The Falcons aren't there right now.

There's surely work to do, but the cupboard's not bare.

The Atlanta Falcons were in full pads for the first time on Day 5 of 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp. Here are the best images.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Watching from afar, I was impressed with how the Saints, and Fontenot, seemed to hit draft choices every year and were always able to pick up a key free agent here or there. How many years do you think it will take for him to get the Falcons' salary cap situation under control, and we pull off personnel moves like the Saints used to? Thanks and welcome to the South.

Bair: Will, that might be the nicest thing anyone's ever said about the Saints in this mailbag. And I mean, ever. While complimenting the enemy will be considered blasphemy to some, I can at least see where you're coming from.

The Saints personnel department has made some excellent moves, and Fontenot was part of most all of them. That's why Arthur Blank sought him out, hired him and was lauded for doing so.

How long will it take to get fully right with the salary cap? A little while, especially after a series of offseason renegotiations designed to help the current club after the salary cap went down due to the pandemic. Fontenot can start stacking draft classes now and might have already with this year's group. If all goes as planned, they'll need fewer and fewer veteran stopgaps. Eventually they'll develop and reward their own draft picks, meaning they'll need to spend less and less in free agency. The more they hit, the less time the process will take. If they can reach those levels, a period of sustained success will surely follow.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 during team practice at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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