Straight from the Beek

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SFTB: Lots of questions about the Falcons' future, free agency, Matt Ryan, highest-paid QBs, the GM, more

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Welcome to Straight from the ’Beek! The Falcons are getting ready for their final home game of the 2018 regular season – a showdown with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz-Stadium – and you’ve got plenty of questions and comments. So, let’s get right to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

And away we go.

Jacob from Logan, UT
Hey, Beek. I appreciate all the great STFB's that have been coming out. My question is, do you think that with Tevin Coleman being a free agent next year that the Falcons would consider trading Devonta Freeman and/or Andy Levitre to clear up space. Both of these players are great for the team when they are healthy, but it just seems like they have just been injured too much in recent years. Also, I love the sass from the last STFB to keep the haters away. Is this a new Beek we haven't seen yet?

Matt: And I always appreciate hearing from Falcons fans in Utah, Jacob. Well, here’s the deal. Both Andy Levitre and Tevin Coleman are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. In fact, 19 players are set to become unrestricted free agents. Here’s the list from Spotrac.com:

  • Andy Levitre, G
  • Matt Schaub, QB
  • Ben Garland, G
  • Derrick Shelby, DE
  • Justin Bethel, CB
  • Terrell McClain, DT
  • Bruce Irvin, DE
  • Jon Condo, LS
  • Logan Paulsen, TE
  • Kemal Ishmael, SS
  • Ty Sambrailo, LT
  • Jordan Richards, SS
  • Bruce Carter, ILB
  • Zane Beadles, G
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB
  • Tevin Coleman, RB
  • Steven Means, DE
  • Justin Hardy, WR
  • Grady Jarrett, DT

Safety Brian Poole will be a restricted free agent and receiver Marvin Hall is set to be an exclusive restricted free agent. But back to your question. I would be totally surprised if Devonta Freeman was not in a Falcons uniform next season. He’s a true difference-maker when he’s healthy and right now that’s what he’s doing – working on getting healthy. Also, don’t forget he signed a five-year contract extension at the beginning of the 2017 season, and that would have a major impact on any decision regarding any possible roster moves, trades, etc. Andy Levitre is another one of those players who is terrific when he’s healthy, as you noted. He’s 33 and has been dealing with injuries. At this point, I can’t say with any confidence what the Falcons will decide to do with any of their soon-to-be free agents. When a team is currently 4-9, I think there are a lot of questions being asked. That’s why this offseason will be fascinating as this team looks to straighten out some things and regroup for 2019. As far as the “sass” goes, haha, you can definitely expect to see a more direct Beek – and some of you might enjoy that! I’m just having more and more fun … glad you guys are enjoying it. Thanks for writing in, Jacob.

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Marlon from Oakland, CA
Hey Matt, I just wanna apologize for not keeping in touch with the “Beek” as much as I have been in the past and I just wanted to let you know that I love SFTB. My question I have is, do you think Robert (Rocky) Alford, has played his final games in ATL? I have seen him on many occasions struggling against his opponents throughout the year and it has been atrocious. I DON’T wanna see him leave but if it is a business decision that needs to be done then ATL has to do what it needs to do. What do you think??!

Matt: I think there are a number of big decisions this team has to make this offseason. I’ve said I think the biggest areas of need include the offensive and defensive lines and stand by that. Robert Alford has had a tough season, along with a number of players on defense. As I noted in this space on Thursday, Alford has allowed more yards (737) than any other cornerback this season. The Falcons drafted cornerback Isaiah Oliver in the second round last spring and he’s had an up-and-down rookie season, as you’d expect. Oliver also split time with Alford against the Packers last Sunday, too. With Oliver’s emergence coupled with Alford’s struggles (plus the Falcons could reportedly save $7.9 million in cap space by cutting Alford), it’s conceivable that they could move in a different direction. Stay tuned on that front.

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Roman from Macon, GA
So, as I'm watching this Chargers-Chiefs on ‘Thursday Night Football’ and Patrick Mahomes is doing his crazy magic thing, I thought of something. I think some fans blame Matt Ryan and call him "trash" not because he really is but because they don't like his style of play. Patrick Mahomes frequently keeps his balance and is like an escape artist. Drew Brees stays calm and delivers when it matters. Russell Wilson sheds sacks and delivers dimes downfield. But Matt Ryan just kind of ... does. He'll give us something every once in a while, and make us fans go "Wow, what a play." But most of the time he drops back, and either throws the ball or takes the sack. Nothing more, nothing less. And there's nothing wrong with that. I just think us fans long for that special something that we frequently see from other quarterbacks like the ones I named before. Not only that but we're frustrated because we're not playing good football, we're officially eliminated from the playoffs, we're 4-9, and we have an upcoming home game against the Cardinals that not many of us fans have confidence that we'll get a win even though we should. I know I really didn't ask a question, but I just wanted your thoughts on this.

Matt: Every player is different and at to make it at this level, you need to be damn good. And to play as well as Matt Ryan has played since 2008, that’s special. Every player has their own skill sets, talents and abilities. Tom Brady isn’t the most athletic guy in the world (in comparison to Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and even Dak Prescott), but he’s arguable the best to ever play the position. Same with Joe Montana, Roger Staubach and even Terry Bradshaw – quarterbacks from different eras, yes, but were extremely successful and won multiple Super Bowls. Like Ryan, they are all fierce competitors and that’s something you can’t measure. Ryan is the all-time best quarterback in Falcons history, and it’s not even close. If you put any one of those aforementioned quarterbacks in the Falcons huddle this season, they might be less successful and have worse numbers than Ryan. There’s really no way of knowing, though. What we do is that Ryan has somehow managed to complete 70.5 percent of his passes for for 4,076 yards, thrown 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions this season. He could reach the 5,000-yard mark this season, too. Stats are great, and his will likely put him in the Hall of Fame one day. But there’s no question that Ryan would trade his stats for wins and would rather be in a position to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. If he does one day, there’s no doubt he’ll have a bust in Canton one day. Those are my thoughts. Hope that helps.

Colby from Powder Springs, GA
Hey Beek! First of all, thank you for always keeping it real and keeping a level head with some of these fans that want to clean house because of how the season went. I guess if we aren't going 11-5 or better then someone has to be fired. Anyways, kudos to you for dealing with that. To the question ... Out of the top-10 highest-paid (based on average salary) QBs in the league, only one QB has already guaranteed a playoff spot (Drew Brees) and two or three others are on the verge of making it but may need some help. With that being said, Matt Ryan is No. 2 on the highest-average salary list and he seems to be a "team" guy so wouldn't it be smart/logical for him to restructure his contract and take a pay cut so we have enough cap space to keep vital pieces on the team or maybe sign a big-name guy in the future? I guess what I am trying to say is, I love the Ryan/Jones connection and want to see them both in Falcons uniforms for a long time.

Matt: That’s something that comes up from time to time – that securing the quarterback with a long-term deal could hamper a team from signing more key players to extended deals. Technically, you’re not wrong; there’s only so much cap space allotted per year. In fact, the NFL just announced that projections for the 2019 salary cap are in the range of $187 million to $191.1 million – an increase over the 2018 cap of $177.2 million per club. But to your points and question. Let’s look at the average salary rankings of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in 2018, according to Spotrac.com:

  • Aaron Rodgers, $33,500,000
  • Matt Ryan, $30,000,000
  • Kirk Cousins, $28,000,000
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, $27,500,000
  • Matthew Stafford, $25,000,000
  • Drew Brees, $25,000,000
  • Derek Carr, $25,000,000
  • Andrew Luck, $24,594,000
  • Alex Smith, $23,500,000
  • Joe Flacco, $22,133,333

Of those aforementioned quarterbacks above, technically only Garoppolo’s 49ers and Carr’s Raiders have been officially eliminated as of today. The Saints (Brees) have clinched the NFC South and a playoff spot and that’s it. All the rest of those teams associated with the names above are still mathematically alive, even the Falcons. But let’s be honest, the Falcons (Ryan), Lions (Stafford), Packers (Rodgers), Panthers (Newton) and Colts (Luck) are facing some long odds at clinching a playoff berth at the moment. In the end, it may be just Brees and Flacco – the Saints and the Ravens – who get in off that list. So, back to the Falcons and Ryan. Does his deal mean the Falcons will not be able to re-sign their own free agents? No. Does it mean that the Falcons won’t be able to go out and sign some free agents following the season? Again, no. As you noted, they could restructure some deals and cut some of their own players to create space. Like the 31 other NFL teams, they’ll have to get creative with the salary cap – and some teams definitely do a better job of it. Sometimes injuries and unexpected retirements create dead cap money (see Tony Romo, for example) and that’s just something teams have to live with. There are gambles and risks associated with almost any contract, but that’s just how it goes. Those who manage it best and continue to draft well (which is really the key) are the teams who are consistently successful.

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Gunnar from Buckley, WA
Been a Falcons fan since I can remember. I don’t like to blame it on people, but Desmond Trufant needs to be traded or cut. And why did we ever let Dontari Poe go?

Matt: It sure looks like you’re putting a ton of blame on Desmond Trufant right now if you’re demanding that he be traded or cut, Gunnar. There’s so much that goes into evaluating the players and when it comes to making any sort of roster move, you guys must keep in mind that this isn’t fantasy football – there are major implications from the locker room, leadership, salary cap, depth at that particular position to how other injuries affected a players (and overall unit’s) performance. And you certainly cannot make a trade without A) a willing trade partner and B) a deal that works for both sides (schematically, culturally and cap-wise). That all said, Trufant signed a five-year contract extension in 2017, making him reportedly one of the four highest-paid cornerbacks at the time. The Falcons could do a number of things with Trufant and his contract, including restructuring it, for example. But all of that is pure speculation at this point. I don’t think he’s going anywhere, but I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to the NFL, too. As far as letting Dontari Poe go, the Falcons pretty much knew Poe was playing on a one-year prove-it deal and he played himself into a big contract. Poe ended up signing a three-year deal worth a reported $28 million with a $10 million signing bonus. The Falcons obviously chose to spend their money elsewhere and have, as I mentioned above, a number of their own free agents coming up.

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Marlin from Calhoun, GA
When do you think Mr. Blank will make plans to hire a new general manager? The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of talent and still cannot win.

Matt: Not anytime soon, Marlin. General manager Thomas Dimitroff signed a three-year extension prior to the start of the season. Dimitroff joined the Falcons in 2008 and helped orchestrate the most successful runs in franchise history, including five consecutive winning seasons from 2008-12 and three straight playoff berths – a first in franchise history. A two-time Executive of the Year honoree by The Sporting News in 2008 and 2010, Dimitroff brought with him a team-building philosophy that centered around building the core of the roster through the draft and supplementing with key additions through free agency. In the 2017, the Falcons had 17 starters on their playoff roster – nine on defense and eight on offense – who were either drafted or signed by the team as college free agents. It’s been a tough year, but Dimitroff isn’t going anywhere, Marlin.

Got a question? If there is something you want to ask or comment about, submit it right here.

Be sure to catch Matt Tabeek, D.J. Shockley and Dave Archer every Monday afternoon on Falcons Audible podcast. Listen and subscribe to it on iTunes, Google Play or watch it here on AtlantaFalcons.com.

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