The Atlanta Falcons are set to add a few new faces to their roster this March via free agency, but they’ve also got their own guys to take care of.
Via a handful of news reports from the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, we have a better idea of where things are standing with three of the team’s impending free agents.
WR Andre Roberts, LB Sean Weatherspoon and K Matt Bryant have all gone on record to share where their statuses rest as free agency looms.
Roberts, the team’s lead returner in 2017, told Ledbetter that he plans to enter the free agent pool, though his ultimate desires are to be back with the Falcons.
“I would love to be back in Atlanta,” Roberts said. “I’m sure my agent will talk to the upper management in Atlanta and see where they are at. That will all come down when it’s due time.”
Roberts enjoyed last season with the Falcons, who reached the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
“I would definitely like to come back,” Roberts said. “The big thing here is the culture and the brotherhood. I loved everything that our coach (Dan Quinn) represents. I obviously love my teammates.
“It’s a winning organization, and I feel like we have a chance to do something special here in the near future. Who wouldn’t want to be back to play with a team like this?”
As Ledbetter notes, Roberts was fourth in the league for returns of 30 or more yards, with a lot of his struggles explained away by reviewing special teams penalties. He’s a solid returner, though he turned 30 in January. The team has in-house options, like Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall and 2016 draft pick Devin Fuller, waiting in the wings to get a shot at returner, as well. This will be a spot to monitor throughout the offseason, particularly if Roberts is not brought back.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a forever fan favorite, was brought back this past October after rookie Duke Riley went down with a knee injury, but was relegated to more of a leadership role for the team’s young LBs and was inactive for a large chuck of the season.
Even so, he told Ledbetter Atlanta is where he wants to be as he gets the process sorted out.
“Usually, you get the lay of the land at the combine,” Weatherspoon said about returning to the Falcons. “I haven’t talked to (coach Dan Quinn) yet or my agent even much, but we are representing Josh Rosen from UCLA. (Agent) Ryan (Williams) will be talking to everybody and he will get the lay of the land.”
Weatherspoon’s career as a starter was sidelined by injuries, but he’s no doubt a great locker room presence and a favorite of the organization, no matter the regime. Though, Weatherspoon now has a new tie in the league — Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Indianapolis could be a landing spot for the veteran if Atlanta looks elsewhere for depth at the LBs spot.
“My college coach (Matt Eberflus), who recruited me to Missouri, is the (defensive) coordinator for the Colts now,” Weatherspoon said. “There are a lot of things, I love Atlanta, but I’m just looking for an opportunity. I’d love to be here. If things work out, this is where I’ll be.”
The kicker confirms that the team has talked with his agent and expressed a desire to have him back. For Bryant, Atlanta’s where he wants to be.
“I’ve been here nine years, I’ve set probably every franchise record there is for a kicker, and my kids are in school here, so we’ve done everything here for the last nine years,” Bryant said. “There’s a lot of good guys on the team right now. Obviously, everybody’s a lot younger than me, so there’s a big gap. But I still enjoy going to work and being around everybody and being a part of this team.
”We were so close [to a Super Bowl title] two years ago. With what seemed like things not clicking, we still got close again this year. So the opportunity to win the thing is here now. It would be good to be a part of it.”
Bryant reiterates that, despite entering the season at age 43, he still wishes to push on with his career as long as he can. He also knows his importance to the roster.
“It’s my will to succeed,” Bryant said of defying age. “Last season wasn’t a bed of roses, but I still had the will to go out there and do my job, keep living my dream, and succeed and what I do.
”I think most good teams, as much as probably people don’t like to admit, there’s usually a good quarterback and a pretty good kicker. In our league, I forgot what the stat is, but like so many games were determined by four points or less. You’ve got to be able to make your kicks.”
Roberts, Weatherspoon and Bryant all filled roles for the team in 2017, some more pertinent than others. But, all would leave holes to fill if they departed for elsewhere, or are not chosen to return. But, at the very least, it’s heartening to hear them all wish to return to the organization.
Now, we wait to see where they land.