Early Bird Report: Why the Falcons have the NFL's best group of pass-catchers

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes why the Falcons have the league's best group of pass-catchers as well as Tom Brady's recent comments on his future retirement plans.

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The Ringer: The top 10 pass-catching groups in the NFL

For several seasons, Falcons receiver Julio Jones has been considered one of the top players at his position. After increasing the talent level around Jones, however; the Falcons may just have the best group of pass-catchers in the league.

According to The Ringer's Danny Kelly, that's exactly what the Falcons have. In his recent ranking of the top 10 pass-catching groups in the NFL, the Falcons emerge as the cream of the crop. Jones obviously plays a role in that, but it's the team's impressive depth that helped push Atlanta to the No. 1 spot.

"What separates Atlanta from the pack, though, is the depth of talent behind their superstar leader," Kelly writes. "[Mohamed] Sanu (126 catches, 1,356 yards, and nine touchdowns the past two seasons) is a physical and versatile no. 2. Rookie first-rounder [Calvin] Ridley should utilize his strong route-running skills and knack for picking up chunks of yards after the catch as the team's third option early on. At tight end, [Austin] Hooper (49 catches, 526 yards, three touchdowns) is an ascending talent with breakout potential, and he's bolstered at that spot by veteran [Logan] Paulsen and rookie fifth-rounder [Eric] Saubert. Add in fourth-year receiver [Justin] Hardy and the speedy [Marvin] Hall, and the Falcons have the deepest, most complete pass-catching corps in the league."  

The Falcons ranked eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game last season, averaging 249.4 yards. Drops and a decrease in explosive scoring plays limited the effectiveness of the unit in 2017, but those are two areas of the game the Falcons are working hard to correct this fall.

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NFL.com: Brady: Retirement coming 'sooner rather than later'

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey over the weekend, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady revealed that retirement might be on the horizon. Brady, 40, has previously stated he could see himself playing until he's 45, but he appears to now be thinking about leaving the game more often than in the past.

"I think about it more now than I used to," Brady told Winfrey, according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. "I think I'm seeing that there's definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later."

Speculation as to when he might call it a career is nothing new to Brady, but his family seems to have become a greater priority in his life. With his wife, Gisele Bundchen, wanting him to hang up his cleats and his desire to spend more time with his kids, Brady may be more serious about retiring in the near future than ever before.

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