The Atlanta Falcons struggled for much of 2020, and while it may make sense to embark on a rebuild, it seems a few franchise stalwarts will be sticking around.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Thursday that he was more or less certain that quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones would remain with the team in 2021.
“Well, I’d be shocked, completely shocked if [Ryan] was not (on the Falcons next year), and it really has nothing to do necessarily with his contract,” Blank told NFL Network, via Nick Shook of NFL.com. “Matt has played at a very high level for us since 2008 when we drafted him. He and Drew Brees are the only quarterbacks in the history of the NFL that have thrown for more than 4,000 yards over a 10-year period of time consistently. He’s performed beautifully, was MVP of the league one year. So Matt can still play at a very high level and we expect him to be a Falcon next year, fully.”
Jones, who struggled with injuries for much of 2020, is also expected back.
“We expect Julio to be a Falcon, to be playing next year at a very high level as well,” Blank said. “God-willing, taking care of his body, his hamstring will be healed up. He’ll be able to play in more games than he played last year.”
Trades of both players already looked unlikely before Blank’s statements. There are a couple of good reasons for that stance, too.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their third consecutive losing season, and there has been talk about them potentially undergoing a total rebuild under new head coach Arthur Smith. That is reportedly not going to happen this offseason.
The Falcons have had no discussions about trading quarterback Matt Ryan or star wide receiver Julio Jones, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
Pelissero cites two main reasons why the Falcons are not planning to trade Ryan or Jones. One is that Smith is expected to run a similar offense to the one Atlanta ran when Ryan was named NFL MVP in 2016. Another reason is the Falcons would have to absorb significant salary cap penalties if they move on from either player, with Ryan alone carrying a dead cap hit of $44 million.
There was talk prior to the trade deadline this season that the Falcons could entertain trade offers for Ryan and/or Jones. Ryan, 35, has three more years remaining on a contract that pays him $30 million annually. Jones is also signed through 2023 at an average salary of $22 million.
Jones had a very stern response during the season when he was asked if he wanted to be traded.
Todd Gurley’s mental mistake in the Atlanta Falcons’ loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday looks even worse after seeing this video clip.
A new video from NFL Films shows that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan reminded Gurley in the huddle not to score. The Falcons were down 16-14 with 1:04 left and had a 1st-and-goal from the Detroit 10. The plan was to run out the clock and then kick an easy field goal to win the game by a point.
Here is the video clip of Ryan going over the plan with Gurley:
Instead, Gurley couldn’t stop himself and ended up going in for a touchdown. Though Atlanta took a 22-16 lead, they left Detroit a minute on the clock. Despite not having any timeouts, the Lions drove for the winning touchdown and won 23-22.
The loss added on to an already miserable season for Falcons fans. What’s crazy is Gurley wasn’t the only player to make that exact same mistake over the weekend.
The Atlanta Falcons played inspired football on Sunday in their first game after former head coach Dan Quinn was fired, but they are still miles from playoff contention. Although trades involving star players are uncommon in the middle of an NFL season, there are some in the know who wonder if the Falcons could consider blowing up their roster.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, there are people around the NFL who wonder if Matt Ryan and/or Julio Jones could be shopped ahead of the trade deadline, which is in two weeks. The belief is that the 1-5 Falcons are leaning toward a complete teardown, so selling off some assets could make sense.
Ryan, 35, has three more years remaining after this season on a contract that pays him $30 million annually. Jones is also signed through 2023 at an average salary of $22 million. Neither player would be easy to trade, but the Falcons may be willing to take less than market value if they can clear the money off their books.
The Falcons have been heading in the wrong direction since their epic collapse in the Super Bowl a few years ago. Team owner Arthur Blank recently made some comments that created doubt over Ryan’s future with the team, so it would not exactly be a shock if Atlanta moves on from him during or after the season.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank raised doubts about quarterback Matt Ryan’s future with the organization on Monday.
Blank said that he wouldn’t be making the decision on Ryan’s future, and while he praised the quarterback, he certainly left the door open to moving on.
“Matt’s been a franchise leader for us, great quarterback; one of the leading quarterbacks in the last 13 years in the NFL,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. “I hope he’s going to be part of our plans going forward. But that will be a decision that I won’t make.
“Matt has the ability to play at a very high level, even at this age. Whether that’s going to continue or not, I’m not sure. I appreciate his willingness to consider doing that and the level at what he’s played for us for 13 years, which has been incredible. So we’ll have to see. But then again, that’s going to be a decision, at the end of the day, that part of it will be up to the player; part of it will be up to the coaching staff. And whether or not Matt can keep himself together.”
Blank has typically been fond of using the phrase “Falcon for life” about Ryan. He didn’t use it here, which is also telling.
The 35-year-old Ryan still puts up numbers, but hasn’t won as much. Last season, he threw 26 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in 15 games, and went a modest 7-8 as the team’s starter. With a new front office on its way in, the prospect of a rebuild may be on the table, and Ryan simply may not be part of that rebuild.
Matt Ryan can get down and dirty when he needs to.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback threw a nice block to seal the edge for a Todd Gurley touchdown run on Monday night against the Packers.
Ryan’s Falcons had a second-and-goal from the three and gave the ball to Gurley. The running back tried to bounce outside and got some help from Ryan to walk into the end zone.
That was a solid and effective block by Ryan and it gave Gurley his second touchdown of the game.
Unfortunately, Ryan threw for 285 yards but no touchdowns, and his Falcons lost 30-16 to Green Bay. The Falcons are now 0-4, compared to the 4-0 Packers.
This is a much better look for Ryan, who made a negative headline last year for his physical play.
Cam Jordan has terrorized Matt Ryan for the last several years, and now he is poking fun at the Atlanta Falcons quarterback over that much.
The New Orleans Saints defensive end took to Twitter on Monday to react to the crazy stat that he has sacked Ryan more times (18) than any other player has sacked a single quarterback in NFL history. Jordan tweeted at Ryan and said that he would like to get that number to 20 this season with Ryan’s help.
Indeed, the numbers (since sacks became an official stat back in 1982) check out for Jordan, who got to Ryan four times in a single game last season.
The Saints and the Falcons both play in the NFC South, so Jordan has a few more cracks at Ryan than he otherwise would get. This season, the two teams are scheduled to meet in Week 11 and again in Week 13.
The former MVP Ryan is feeling very confident about the 2020 campaign, but Jordan, himself a five-time Pro Bowler, will be trying his best to rain on his familiar foe’s parade.
Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest story in the NFL this offseason, let alone the NFC South. And while that move could shake up the balance of power in the division, Matt Ryan is feeling extremely confident about his team’s chances of returning to the postseason.
Ryan was a guest on the “Pardon My Take” podcast this week, and his bold claims made for some great headlines. For starters, he said he believes the Falcons are going to win 12 games this season. He was also asked if he considers himself the best quarterback in a division that features Brady and Drew Brees, and the 35-year-old said he would “currently” put himself ahead of those two future Hall of Famers.
There was a lot of talk over the weekend about Ryan declaring himself a better QB than Brees and Brady, but the context is important. For starters, podcast hosts Big Cat and PFT Commenter openly joked that they were trying to set Ryan up to deliver attention-grabbing quotes. Ryan was mostly just playing along. Also, what else is he supposed to say? No quarterback in the NFL should openly admit that another QB in his division is better, even if it’s the truth.
The Falcons are certainly flying under the radar heading into the season. They’ve made a couple of big roster moves, and Ryan recently expressed his excitement in one of them. You could argue that Atlanta has been sent into a tailspin since its infamous meltdown in the Super Bowl a few years ago, but Ryan is a former NFL MVP who should have plenty of good football left. He has a great opportunity to surprise some people this year.
The relationship between Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and new running back Todd Gurley appears to be off to a very good start.
Ryan and Gurley recently spent time together in California, and that left the Falcons quarterback raving about Gurley’s work ethic and ability to learn quickly.
“I’ve gotten to work with Todd and he’s awesome,” Ryan told ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. “Really, really good guy. A hard worker. He’s super-smart. The stuff I was telling him one day, the next day he had it done. I was really impressed with his ability to retain information. You don’t have to tell him twice. He’s on it.”
The early returns here are good. We know what Gurley can do when he’s healthy; in 2017 and 2018, he rushed for a combined 2,556 yards and scored 30 rushing touchdowns. The big question is whether his history of knee injuries will continue to hinder him. Ryan can’t answer that right now. In fact, neither can Gurley’s coaches, which is slightly worrisome.
Joe Burrow’s dominance was there for all to see during the first half of the College Football Playoff semifinal, but one stat really puts it in perspective.
Through halftime, the LSU quarterback had played six quarters at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season, which also serves as the home of the Falcons. By midway through the second quarter on Saturday, Burrow had actually thrown more touchdown passes in that stadium than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had in seven games all season.
Burrow threw four touchdowns against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and seven in the first half against Oklahoma. That gave Burrow 11 touchdowns in six quarters at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Ryan’s eight on the season.
On one hand, it’s an indication that Ryan’s season has been somewhat disappointing. Ultimately, though, considering the caliber of opposition and the importance of the games, it says more about how amazing Burrow is this season. No wonder Bengals fans want him so badly.