Early Bird Report: Panthers expected to release Cam Newton

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The Atlanta Falcons have a new tight end in Hayden Hurst who is very reminiscent of their old tight end, Austin Hooper. Hurst, a former first-round pick with the Baltimore Ravens, has many of the same qualities that helped Hooper become a star in his final two seasons in Atlanta.

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Although Hurst didn't have much production as a receiver in Baltimore, he was effective in the passing game when called upon. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has always had a scheme that offers plenty of opportunities for tight ends, and Hurst is looking forward to playing in it.

"It's going to be a perfect fit," Hurst told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "(Offensive coordinator Dirk) Koetter's pass-heavy offense is going to suit me well. It's going to allow me to do some things that I personally do well (like) stretch the field vertically and hopefully create some mismatches for the other guys, Julio and Calvin. I saw where they've picked up Laquon Treadwell as well. It's a pretty potent offense. I'm just excited to be a part of it."

To read more of Ledbetter's article on what Hurst brings to Atlanta, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

ESPN: Panthers expected to release Cam Newton

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Carolina Panthers are expected to release quarterback Cam Newton.

Injuries have slowed the former NFL MVP in recent seasons, and the Panthers signaled that they were preparing to move on from Newton when they reportedly agreed to terms with Teddy Bridgewater earlier in free agency. This clearly has implications for the Falcons, who face the Panthers twice a season, and will seemingly no longer need to prepare for Newton.

ESPN's David Newton wrote more about the Panthers' reported plans to release the former NFL MVP, which you can read here.

Pro Football Focus: Best and worst moves made

The analysts at Pro Football Focus are evaluating each move made by NFL teams during free agency, and they've determined the best and worst moves made so far. For the Falcons, PFF appears to be very high on the trade for tight end Hayden Hurst.

"With losing Austin Hooper, Atlanta traded away 2020 second- and fifth-round picks to the Ravens for 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick," PFF's Anthony Treash writes. "This is a solid move made on Atlanta's part and honestly might even be an upgrade over Hooper considering what the Browns paid him. One of Hooper's flaws was his ability to win in single coverage, and that's an area where Hurst has thrived in. He owns a two-year receiving grade in single coverage that ranks eighth at his position."

To see the move PFF believes to be the Falcons' worst thus far in free agency, click here.

ESPN: NFL free agency grades

As NFL free agency continues to roll along, ESPN's Bill Barnwell is providing grades for each move. For each of their three major moves this offseason – the additions of Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler and Hayden Hurst – Barnwell gives the Falcons a "C+" grade, which is not out of line from most of his grades for free agency moves.

"The Falcons desperately needed a lead pass-rusher after waiting for Vic Beasley to return to form and then letting him walk this offseason," Barnwell writes of Atlanta's reported signing of Fowler. "Fowler should be an upgrade on Beasley, albeit at a more expensive cost. If we assume that two of the three years in this deal are guaranteed, which is pretty typical, the Falcons are paying for Fowler to repeat the production from last season over each of the next two seasons. He is capable of doing that."

To see the rest of Barnwell's grades from NFL free agency, click here.

ESPN: Raheem Morris focused on now

After helping lead a dramatic defensive turnaround that played a key role in the Falcons finishing the 2019 season with six wins in their final eight games, Raheem Morris has earned the role of defensive coordinator moving forward. A former head coach in this league, Morris' ability to communicate with Falcons players was apparent.

Morris spoke with the Atlanta media recently and discussed the importance of finding a defensive identity. First and foremost, the Falcons know they need to find ways to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

"To have a successful defense, you guys know, is affecting the quarterback, whatever that means," Morris said, according to ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "A lot of people, when you say affect the quarterback, they automatically go right to sacks. But you've got to get him off the spot. You've got to fool him with disguise. You've got to get those guys to think a little bit."

McClure wrote more about Morris's ascent within the Falcons' ranks and the possibility that sustained success could once again lead to the ultimate opportunity within the NFL. To read McClure's piece, click here.

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