ATLANTA – Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff joined a couple of morning radio shows Friday morning and had some revealing thoughts about the Falcons’ recent coaching changes, Steve Sarkisian, priorities in free agency, Grady Jarrett, focus in the NFL Draft and much more.
Dimitroff also shared some revealing thoughts on the growing sense of urgency for the Falcons to win in 2019.
That’s a lot of territory and topics to cover, so let’s jump right in to what Dimitroff told 92.9 The Game and 680 The Fan this morning.
Dimitroff: ‘We know that it is about this year’
Toward the end of his second interview on 680 The Fan, Dimitroff talked about the youth movement with head coaches general managers currently taking place in the NFL and said, “if you can’t hit it now – again, using the not-for-long idea – you won’t be around in two years to sniff the field.”
Dimitroff said 2019 is an “extremely important season” for both him, Dan Quinn and the Falcons.
“We know it,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve talked about it at length. Our football players on the team right now, the talent that we do have know it. And we’re not focused on anything past this season. This is the season we are 100 percent focused on – and that’s what we need and what I need, and what Dan needs going into the offseason.”
On the reason to move on from Steve Sarkisian
Dimitroff was asked right off the bat on 92.9 The Game about the decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after two seasons.
“You know Sark is just a good football man and a creative guy and he worked really hard and well with our group – and Matt and Julio and the crew responded well to him,” Dimitroff said. “I think anytime that you have a head coach looking at the entire package and the entire staff, that’s never easy to lose someone, but I know that Dan and our organization did what we thought was the best for the entire group moving forward.
“Meaning that you have a new and very veteran offensive coordinator coming in here and that person in Dirk Koetter is going to be really good for this offense – keeping it focused, keeping it disciplined and accountable. I think that’s what the offense needs to continue to be prolific.”
On the NFL Draft: Focused on being 'big and strong' inside
Dimitroff said, in general, the Falcons’ draft approach is based on need, but they won’t ignore premium talent should a player they have a high grade on slides. Dimitroff noted that the Falcons were focused on the offensive line last year and pointed out how there was a run on offensive linemen early on in the first round.
“It depends on how it all plays out,” Dimitroff said. “There was a run on offensive linemen early and then we were very fortunate to be staring down the barrel of a guy like Calvin Ridley, and we made that move. But things are always changing.”
As far as how the Falcons’ draft board is setting up, Dimitroff said the team’s focus will continue to be on getting “big and strong” inside on both sides of the ball, but added that “if something comes available that will bolster our athletic positions on the field then we will consider that as well.”
On need to add cornerbacks: ‘You can never have too many corners’
Dimitroff was asked if there was a need to add more cornerbacks and, in short, the Falcons general manager said, “it’s another strong consideration for us” and “you can never have too many corners.”
“I think last year we came in thinking very highly of our secondary,” Dimitroff said. “We know that (Damontae) Kazee has done a really good job for us as well. Where he situates on the field will depend on what we do in the draft and/or in free agency at that position. Again, depth at that position is vital.”
The Falcons’ soon-to-be free agents: ‘Grady is our focus’
NFL free agency begins in mid-March and the Falcons have 21 players who could potentially hit the open market as free agents, including defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Dimitroff also said the Falcons are committed to re-do receiver Julio Jones’ deal this offseason.
“Grady is our focus coming out of this season,” Dimitroff said. “He was our focus and we tabled it during the season because we didn’t want to be distracting anyone. He was a complete warrior about it. To his credit, I can’t say enough about how Grady approached the season. He is a soldier 100 percent and a warrior – and that’s great.
“We would love to have him back for years to come,” Dimitroff said. “Not only is he an important part, as you know, on the field but he’s an important part off (it) for us.”
Will the Falcons make a splash in free agency?
Dimitroff said the Falcons have a “keen eye” on the potential free agent market right now.
“Sometimes that splash can be a really good mid-line guy at a position we know is not a real splashy position but it’s a guy who is going to help potentially Matt (Ryan) throw a ball or, you know, whoever on the team accomplish what they need to accomplish,” Dimitroff said.
“We will be looking directly into free agency but I’m not exactly sure if we’re going to be first-day participants or we’re going to let it settle a little bit."
Dimitroff noted that while Jarrett and Jones will be the main focus, their deals will directly impact how they approach the rest of free agency and re-signing other players.
“We have a number of other free agents that we need to take care of but, again, it will be contingent on how we take care of these guys right now at the front end of our priority list because, of course, you only have a certain amount of money, right? And we all know how that goes. And we have some expensive people on this football team. So it comes down to creativity as well.”
On team’s biggest need heading into 2019: The front lines
Dimitroff said that it’s going to be important to continue to build depth at both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason.
“Both fronts are going to be important for us,” Dimitroff said. “Both of those positions, especially on the defensive line, it’s a rotation for sure. The offensive line – guards and tackles can go down – a team knows that they need to have the depth talent to step up and be a spot starter. It’s not always easy to get depth, starters.
“You usually can’t get a second and third wave of offensive linemen who are starters as we’ve said before,” Dimitroff said. “Those players are going somewhere else and they’re making multi-million-dollar contracts if they are full-on frontline starters.”