Early Bird Report 2/22: Falcons begin contract talks with Matt Bryant; Panthers' new GM

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a report that the Falcons have begun negotiations with kicker Matt Bryant as well as the Panthers' GM search coming to an end.

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FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

*AJC: *Falcons open contract talks with Matt Bryant

According to a report by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the *Atlanta Journal-Constitution, *the Falcons have begun contract negotiations with veteran kicker Matt Bryant. Bryant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 14, but he has previously said that he believes he could play two or three more seasons and would like to finish his career with the Falcons.    

"We have talked and more talks are scheduled," Bryant's agent Jordan Woy wrote in an e-mail to the AJC. "Nothing yet, but both sides are working on it."

Although Bryant will turn 43 in May, he's regarded as one of the league's top kickers and showed no signs of slowing down last season. In 2017, Bryant converted 39 of his 44 field goal attempts, including 10 of his 11 attempts from 50-plus yards away. The Falcons' all-time scoring leader proved huge down the stretch for Atlanta, making a combined nine field goals in the team's Week 17 win over the Panthers and their first-round playoff win against the Rams.

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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL

NFL.com: Panthers name Marty Hurney as general manager

After serving as the Panthers' interim general manager since July, Marty Hurney was officially named the team's full-time general manager on Wednesday. Hurney took over the position in an interim capacity after the Panthers fired former general manager Dave Gettleman prior to last year's training camp.

"I have always felt a strong connection to this organization and viewed this job as one of the very best in the NFL because of the people here," Hurney said in a statement, per NFL.com's Kevin Patra. "Mr. [Jerry] Richardson and [COO] Tina [Becker] have been open and honest with me from the beginning, and I am thankful for the trust they have placed in me. I gained a lot of perspective being away and then back in an interim role last season. I feel that I am the best person to help Ron and this team moving forward. We have a really special core of players in place, and I'm extremely excited about the direction we are headed."

This isn't the first time Hurney has help this position full-time for the Panthers, he served as the team's general manager from 2002-2012 before Gettleman replaced him.

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