The Atlanta Falcons are bringing back veteran kicker Matt Bryant, and they announced the deal in rather amusing fashion.
The Falcons opted to bring back the 44-year old for his tenth year with the franchise after watching both Giorgio Tavecchio and Blair Walsh struggle during preseason. They made the announcement by playing up Bryant’s nickname, “Money,” with an excellent Shane McMahon reference.
Bryant dealt with some minor injuries in 2019, but he still made 20 of 21 field goal attempts, with the only missing coming from beyond 50 yards. He did, however, miss a pair of extra points.
Bryant has traditionally been very reliable, even from beyond 50. The Falcons clearly feel that he’s still a better bet than their two less-accomplished and less-experienced camp options.
Julio Jones is seeking a contract extension from the Atlanta Falcons, and the team’s general manager believes one is close.
Jones reported to training camp on time last month but has been limited by a foot injury. He and the Falcons have been working towards a new contract. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said Thursday he was “confident” one would get done.
“He’s in a great spot, we’re in a great spot,” Dimitroff said during the telecast of Thursday’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. “We continue to have our negotiations. I’m confident, I don’t have an exact timeline, but I’m not concerned about it, he’s not concerned about it … It’s just a matter of where it’s all going to land. As you know, you get a little creative and see how it is. I think it’s around the corner.”
Jones is owed a $9.4 million base salary in the upcoming season and $11.4 million next season. The 30-year-old has caught 31 touchdown passes since 2014 and has consistently been among the league leaders in receptions and receiving yards.
He wants to become the highest-paid wide receiver in the league, which means the Falcons would have to top this deal.
The Atlanta Falcons opened up training camp on Monday, and already they have lost one of their players to a significant injury.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive tackle Michael Bennett IV suffered a broken ankle in practice and will be out indefinitely.
Bennett, who is not to be confused with the Michael Bennett that plays for the New England Patriots, spent the first three-plus seasons of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars before landing in Atlanta last season. The former Ohio State Buckeye appeared in two games for the Falcons in 2018 and recorded five total tackles.
The Atlanta Falcons invested heavily in their offensive line in the 2019 NFL draft. They selected Chris Lindstrom at 14th overall, then traded back into the end of the first round with the Los Angeles Rams to take Kaleb McGary, the offensive tackle out of Washington.
In looking at these two picks, it’s pretty clear that they were the result of both scouting and analytics working together to identify quality offensive linemen worthy of selection as starters. The Atlanta Falcons are one of the franchises at the leading edge of analytics in the NFL, as they have both a Vice President of Technology, Data, and Analytics (Karl Pierburg) and a Football Analytics Coordinator (John Taormina). And the fingerprints of an objective look at what matters in offensive linemen is there, if you know where to look.
Kaleb McGary put up a 33.5 inch vertical jump, which was the second-highest for any drafted offensive tackle (behind Joshua Miles, a seventh-round pick of the Cardinals). He was better than average for a typical early round tackle in all other Combine categories except one: bench press. Meanwhile, Chris Lindstrom put up the second-longest broad jump among offensive lineman, behind only Andre Dillard, and was also well above average athletically in all the other categories except, you guessed it, the bench press. It’s not that these two wouldn’t put mere mortals to shame in lifting 225 pounds well over 20 times each, but compared to other top line prospects, it is the one area where they did not stand out.
So let’s take a look at all offensive tackle prospects who were drafted in the first or second rounds from 2000 to 2014. Using data found at Pro Football Reference on Combine results, and filling in data from pro days where it could be found, I put together a list of athletic testing results for top linemen. Not every top prospect is included, but most from the last generation of football players are.
Kaleb McGary was the second of two offensive linemen drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the NFL draft. The offensive tackle from Washington is, according to one anonymous executive quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “socially awkward.”
That executive describes him as coming from a small town–Fife, Washington is a town of less than 10,000 but it is a suburb of Tacoma, so it’s not like it’s hours from civilization. Anyway, here’s the story relayed from the anonymous executive, who, by the way, sounds like he is speaking in the 1970’s and does not sound like the most enlightened source.
“You [know] how one day they play country music and one day they play R&B in the weight room,” this executive relayed to the AJC, “it was country day, and one of the blacks turned on R&B. He got pissed off and cut the cord to the whole speaker system in the weight room. All of the whites and blacks were pissed off at him because they couldn’t listen to (any) music. Socially awkward stuff. Not racist. He just has to grow up stuff.”
D. Orlando Ledbetter tried to follow up with McGary on that incident relayed from his freshman year at college, but McGary declined to discuss it.
For another perspective on McGary, below is Race Davis talking about some of the hardships that McGary had to overcome to get to being drafted by Atlanta, and here is the Seattle Times story on his life.
The Atlanta Falcons agreed to a revised contract with Julio Jones prior to the start of last season that was essentially a temporary fix, and they are reportedly on the verge of giving the star receiver the deal he has really been seeking.
According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, Jones and the Falcons are closing in on a contract extension that would pay the 30-year-old a record $20 million per season.
Jones has had 1,400 or more receiving yards in each of the past five seasons, and he can easily make the case that he is the best in football at his position. He’s had some nagging injuries, but he almost always plays through them and missed just three games during that five-year stretch.
There was some talk last year that Jones could hold out from training camp if he did not receive a new deal, but it ended up seeming like that was just a bluff. Assuming the report about his new contract is true, that certainly won’t be an issue this summer.
The Atlanta Falcons may be bringing back a notable name from the Mike Smith era.
SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Alex Marvez reported Wednesday that ex-Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey interviewed for Atlanta’s offensive coordinator position, the job that he previously held with them from 2008 to 2011.
The 57-year-old Mularkey enjoyed success over those four years, leading the Falcons to multiple top-10 finishes in total offense en route to three playoff appearances and two division titles. However, his reputation took a bit of a hit in Tennessee, where went 20-21 (.488) over three seasons before getting fired following the 2017 campaign.
Atlanta is looking to fill the OC spot after dismissing Steve Sarkisian among several other major coaching staff changes. Mularkey is already familiar with the Falcons’ biggest offensive stars such as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but one has to wonder if there is a higher-upside candidate available.
As several teams ramp up for a playoff race in the NFL, a handful of others are coming to terms with the fact that their seasons are already essentially done. They can play things out and go for the strongest possible finish, but the reality is they won’t be making it to the playoffs in 2018 and should begin thinking ahead to next year. Several of them have major personnel decisions to make, be they at quarterback or head coach or somewhere else.
Some teams need more changes than others after disappointing or ugly seasons. Here are ten in need of serious makeovers before 2019 begins.
This just hasn’t been the same organization since that crippling Super Bowl loss, but the playoffs aren’t even on Atlanta’s radar in 2018. Part of that is down to injuries, but that doesn’t explain everything. The defense hasn’t been forcing turnovers, the team has struggled in the red zone, and most recently, the run game has been reduced to a total non-factor. Steve Sarkisian simply may not be the right coordinator for this offense. They’ve come a long way down from the days of Kyle Shanahan calling plays.
The Atlanta Falcons, just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, sit at 4-8 and look to be on their way to a losing season. If their owner is to be believed, however, that’s not enough to put the job of the coach in danger.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Quinn, as well as general manager Thomas Dimitroff, still has his support as they look to turn the team around.
“I haven’t lost any faith in Coach Quinn or Thomas,” Blank said, via Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. “They’ll do the evaluations that’s needed.”
Injuries have certainly been a factor for Atlanta, and the offensive line is holding the entire offense back. Earlier in the season, the Falcons were scoring points but being let down by their defense, but the offense can’t get going now. There are a number of problems here, but it sounds like Quinn will, at least for now, be given the chance to fix them.
Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, Week 12 of the NFL season was spread out a bit more, with three games on Thursday. It did nothing to dampen the action, however, with the playoff picture in both conferences generally growing more muddled and more exciting as we head toward the business end of the season.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t disappointments — in fact, there were a number. Here are 15 of the biggest from the weekend.
The Bengals giving up 35 points to the Cleveland Browns can’t be pinned solely on Jackson. They were bad defensively before he got there and his arrival hasn’t changed much. But Jackson appears here mostly because of how thoroughly embarrassing this day was for him. He was trolled by one of former players during the game, and criticized by another after the game. He was brought in to help give the Bengals an advantage against AFC North teams, and instead he’s become the common denominator in the Browns and Bengals’ respective losing ways.