FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' place among the league's most talented teams as well as a massive new contract for Zack Martin.
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NFL.com: The NFL's 10 most talented teams
After watching the Golden State Warriors win their third title in four years, it's clear they are among the most talented teams in NBA history. The talent discrepancy in the NFL isn't as great as in some other leagues, however, and there are several teams at the beginning of each season who have Super Bowl aspirations.
Recently, NFL.com's Gil Brandt released his list of the 10 most talented teams heading into the 2018 season and the Falcons claimed the No. 8 spot.
"The offense ranked eighth in 2017 -- and that could be considered a disappointment, given the level of talent on this unit," Brandt writes. "I think that relative underperformance can partly be blamed on the need to adjust to new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. But Sarkisian is a very good coach who is basically doing the same things his predecessor, current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, was doing, with rhythm being the main difference -- I figure everyone will be on the same page this season. The guards also struggled in 2017, so the Falcons went out and got Brandon Fusco, a veteran who can play anywhere on the line.
"Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley should make the passing game even better. The key for the ninth-ranked defense will be the continued improvement of youngsters Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Takk McKinley. Vic Beasley will move back to being a 4-3 edge rusher, which is the position he was in when he racked up 15.5 sacks in 2016. After a down year, quarterback Matt Ryan will revert to the mean -- which, for him, means returning to MVP-status. And then there's receiver Julio Jones, who will go down as one of the top 10 receivers of all time."
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NFL.com: Zack Martin, Cowboys closing in on six-year contract
Cowboys offensive lineman Zack Martin appears to be near a very big pay day. According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys have reportedly agreed upon a six-year contract extension with their right guard that will make Martin the highest-paid guard with the largest amount of guaranteed money at the position in league history.
Martin, a three-time Pro Bowler, has been among the best players on one of the NFL's top offensive lines since entering the league in 2014. Since Martin joined the Cowboys, they have finished no lower than fifth in rushing yards per game and have finished with the second-most rushing yards per game three times.
Here are some more articles from around the league: