INDIANAPOLIS -- Even with Matt Ryan on the roster and currently taking up $48.6 million towards the salary cap in 2022, the Falcons are still doing their due diligence at the NFL Combine interviewing potential successors. The Falcons have a lot of needs this offseason and even though a quarterback is definitely a part of the conversation, there are a few more pressing needs within this roster at this time. But even in pointing this out, the Falcons are still keeping the door open in regards to the future of this position.
As owner Arthur Blank pointed out a few weeks ago: There's going to be a sunset for Ryan in Atlanta at some point. With two years left on his current contract, the time for the Falcons to start thinking of a succession plan is now. Does that involve drafting a quarterback in 2022? Who's the say one way or the other?
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Three of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft class confirmed they had met with the Falcons this week. Here's a breakdown of what each had to say about their individual interviews.
Corral didn't attend the Senior Bowl last month as he was still working through a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Ole Miss' Sugar Bowl appearance in January. He is not set to participate in the on-field workouts scheduled for quarterbacks on Thursday in Indianapolis. Corral did say, though, that he will workout in full at his Pro Day on March 24.
The quarterback said during his Wednesday media availability at the Combine that he wanted to come to Indianapolis to show teams how he performs mentally.
"Teams need to know that I understand the game of football," Corral said. "I wanted to make that point. It's definitely something that I wanted to show, that they knew the ability that I had not only in my physical ability but mental as well."
The interviews were a big pull for Corral to get to Indianapolis. The interview process is just as important for the Falcons here, too, and Corral was one of their first formal interviews with Corral saying the Falcons were the second team he spoke to when he arrived.
If the Falcons do draft a quarterback in 2022, it's entirely likely that he will not be the Day 1 starter. That'll be Ryan's spot until Ryan is no longer in Atlanta. So, how does Corral feel about potentially sitting a year or two behind Ryan? It wouldn't be so bad considering Ryan is someone who's game Corral wants to emulate.
"I'd absolutely have no problem with it," Corral said, "but I'm a competitor and at the same time I would absolutely want to be the guy. I am going to push behind him and learn as much as I can from him. How could you not want to learn from a guy like that? At the end of the day, he's a guy that I want to be like. I want to be on a team for 10-plus years and be a franchise quarterback. I want to be a sponge and absorb as much information as I can."
Though there are many who believe the Pitt quarterback will stay in the same city and take over for a retired Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers, the Falcons wanted a quick chat with him, too.
Pickett comes from Mark Whipple's west coast offense, and he said the knowledge of Whipple's system was helpful in these interviews.
"Teams will install plays, write it, erase it, ask you questions and then go back and tell you to draw it," Pickett said of the formal interview process. "I feel like I've had a pretty good recall with what they throw on the board because of what I've done. So, I've really enjoyed learning new systems and new concepts but having the recall of Coach Whipple's offense has really helped me."
The Falcons were one of the teams that wanted to see Pickett's football mind in action.
"(The Falcons were) putting the film up there with me detailing the offense and just learning my IQ," Pickett said. " (They asked) good questions about how I like to learn. So that, hypothetically, if I was going to go there they would know how to install plays and teach me early on how to help streamline the process."
It was an interesting note that Pickett seemed to appreciate.
Willis said he met with all 32 teams during his interview process, both formally and informally. And though he wasn't willing to discuss any interview in specifics, the Liberty quarterback from Atlanta did say there are remnants of the days of Falcons past that stick with him even to this day.
When asked which league quarterback he would watch when he was growing up and still learning the game, Atlanta natives can probably guess the first name Willis mentioned.
"Michael Vick," Willis ticked off first.
Willis was later asked about his interview with the Falcons, and though he - again - wouldn't go into specifics about the interview itself, he did say it wouldn't matter what situation he walked into. Whether there was a veteran quarterback around or not, he's more concerned with making a team.
"I feel good about going to any team. Not everybody gets to go to a team so I feel blessed in that facet," he said. "I'm just trying to make a team at the end of the day. You can't make all these goals that you can't keep. I hate that, so I'm just trying to get there and make a team first and then you can learn and try to do something after that."