I moved to Atlanta six months ago, almost to the day. It was a long trek from the West Coast, one that ended with me hitting the ground running.
The Falcons season was upon us when we landed at Hartsfield-Jackson, and it has been a whirlwind ever since. While I've been extremely busy since moving here, chronicling this 2021 campaign has been a great joy because of people I've met along the way.
That includes those in the organization, colleagues in a new market and, of course, those of you who have reached out through this mailbag. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the compliments, criticisms (yes, even those) and tolerance with my resistance to sweet tea.
It has been fun, from my time living in the Suwanee Fairfield Inn for three weeks to this moment, finally settled in our new Buford home.
And an obvious shout out goes to Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim, two amazing talents and fantastic humans. Wouldn't want to go on this journey with anyone else.
Okay, sappy stuff's out of the way. On to your questions about the Falcons and what they'll do moving forward. We'll get to all that in a Monday Bair Mail.
John Walls from Fort Royal, Va.
Scott, thanks for all you did during a disappointing season. So many questions get beat up all season long. But this one can't get beat up enough. Why can't the Falcons ever get the defensive line right? I don't know how many games it was this season, but today was yet another game that not only did the Falcons not record a sack, they didn't even record a QB hit. To me, that's the most embarrassing stat of all the embarrassing stats this team has. There is NO excuse for this. Do you see anyway this is not the top priority?
Bair: Edge rusher is 1,000-percent the team's biggest need. As Tori McElhaney said during an EPIC rant on the latest Falcons Final Whistle podcast, the Falcons need to address the issue though free agency and the NFL draft. That includes the No. 8 overall pick. They need edge rushers. Plural. They had 17 sacks in 2021. Individuals had more than that. They could use some help on the interior as well. Some hope: The Saints struck gold off the edge while Terry Fontenot was helping them draft. Same for Kyle Smith in Washington when they added Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Now they have to help the Falcons find a few good ones.
Clinton Hardy from Evans, Ga.
I believe we could win a lot of games with the offense we have now, with a twit here and there. We need to focus DEFENSE.
Put up a For Sale Sign; Defense for Sale, Slightly used, not much wear and tear on them, make someone a nice 3rd string unit. Built by Dan Quinn.
Seriously, if, somehow, we can work thru the salary cap and get some impact players thru the draft and free agency, we could be in the play-offs next! Is that too far-fetched?
Bair: And the Jim Mora GIF is back in play. That didn't take long. Playoffs?!? Are you kidding me?!? Maybe not. As Matt Ryan pointed out in his postgame presser, the Falcons were a few games away from being in serious contention. Can they up the win count from seven to nine or 10? That would be a significant jump, but it's not impossible with the right moves.
While you think this offseason should have a defensive slant – I agree, and it should focus up front – the offense needs some help. Can the Falcons address enough issues, considering their cap constraints in one offseason? I don't know. This may be another Band-Aid year while getting right with the cap, but that shouldn't eliminate the 2022 Falcons on spec. If they improve along the line of scrimmage, they can get a few more wins for sure.
Ernie Aldaco from Flowery Branch, Ga.
Hey Bair, thanks for the platform this season and for the podcasts along with your team. The podcasts were great! It is obvious we need help next season in a lot of areas mainly defense, but on offense do you think we should draft a running back or get one in free agency? I don't think we need to keep Davis. Also, I know this is going to get a reaction, but what about getting Antonio Brown next year? I think he might be affordable because of his recent issues. He would be a great weapon.
Bair: Thanks for the kind words, Ernie. Appreciate you. Now on to your questions. I do think it's up in the air whether Mike Davis returns next year. He's under contract but moving on from him is not out of the question. He expressed disappointment in his 2021 campaign on Twitter last night, and he can definitely be better. It could be dependent on whether they can keep Cordarrelle Patterson or not. No matter what happens, adding a young rusher in the middle to late rounds of the NFL draft seems like a necessity.
And, regarding Antonio Brown: No, no, no, never. I covered him for a hot minute in Oakland. Not someone I would add to my team. Ever.
Ray Truitt from Savannah, Ga.
Time for a QB change. Will the Falcons draft a QB?
Bair: I wrote 900 words on this topic on Sunday night. Check it out right here. Or you can get this ClifsNotes version: This isn't the year. The Falcons will be better served to stick with Ryan and build up the roster around him. I think that's the right thing to do. I also think that's what the Falcons will do. That said, you move Heaven and Earth if you fall in love with one coming out of this draft. Matt Ryan's still the guy, which means the Falcons aren't forced to take a quarterback. Removing that as a pressing need should allow the Falcons to pick the best player on their board at all times.
Daniel Whetstone from Delta, Colo.
Love your articles..... I have two questions. I feel like if we got a good stout center like Ben Jones from the Titans it may fix our O Line woes a bit. My thoughts are bring him in and kick Hennessey out to Left Guard like he was last year. Seemed like he played better at Guard than he did at Center. My question is do you see us using Free Agency to get help at the O Line? My second question ties into the first one. Say Ridley is just simply done with Football. What happens to our cap? I know he is due 11.1 million next season, do we get off the hook and add that to the cap and what about the games he missed this year? does that money carry over to 2022?
Bair: It's too early to talk about actual player options, but I agree the offensive line needs upgrades. That's possible everywhere except left tackle and right guard. They should look long and hard at the center spot, and right tackle, especially. They need better from the offensive front.
Regarding Ridley, we just don't know what will happen with him. He's set to play on a fifth-year option, which is guaranteed for injury only. There's wiggle room if the Falcons want to move on, and cap space already allotted if he stays. What happens with Ridley, and the entire receiver corps, will be a storyline to watch as we move through the offseason.
Call for questions
The Falcons season may be over, but the Bair Mail carries on. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Wednesday's mailbag.
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.