Give me Matt Bryant, or give me death (not really though).
Here’s the thing - even at 42 years old, Matt $$$ Bryant showed no signs of slowing down in 2017. Sure, he had the occasional injury but his accuracy and ability to hit clutch kicks was as good as ever. His wife has already intimated that he still wants to play, so there’s zero reason to go young just yet. I know kickers aren’t a glamorous position, but you don’t know how important they are until you have a bad one. For the money it would cost, this is a no-brainer on a one-year deal.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of LaRoy Reynolds
Looking at the Falcons’ free agency crop, you see a bunch of “yeah, but...” guys. Adrian Clayborn? Yeah, but Michael Bennett. Dontari Poe? Yeah, but a first round defensive tackle. Taylor Gabriel? Well, Jimmy Garoppolo. See where I’m at? The Falcons have a lot of guys they’re probably going to have to replace, and they have a bunch of guys that are, to certain degrees, replaceable. So, I’ll go with a guy who is not only a core special teamer, but a leader in the locker room -- reserve LB LaRoy Reynolds. Reynolds gives the Falcons their most senior member of the linebacking core, and a guy who knows the defense and can step in a pinch to play if need be. He’s also one of those “lead the pre-game huddle” types -- the energetic presence who gets every going on game day. That’s a sign of vocal leadership. For a team like Atlanta to maintain its culture, they’re going to have to have guys like Reynolds around to set the tone for the younger guys. Reynolds can do that in spades, and operate a valuable role on the bottom half of the roster. He’s one of those guys you don’t necessarily have an exact game plan for to replace. He’s a must to re-sign for the birds.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, except Adrian Clayborn who is clearly better than all men.
The team’s most versatile lineman is in line for a new deal, and he’s earned one. He’s amassed 17 sacks in the last three seasons, an impressive number from a player that can play both inside and outside. Realistically, you can never have too many pass rushers. The Falcons need some consistency across the defensive line, and Clayborn can be that guy.
Matt “Money” Bryant
With Bryant having one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, there’s no reason for the Falcons to move on this offseason. If reliable kickers are valuable, reliable kickers at 50+ yards are absolute weapons in the NFL. Bryant remains both, and has shown no signs of slowing down. At the age of 42, there’s no telling how much longer he’ll be able to play, but until then he should continue to have a job in Atlanta. Because of his age, it’s unlikely Bryant will have much of a market outside of the Falcons--the team should be able to bring him back on a reasonable deal that’ll make both sides happy. Long live $$$.
I know of no way of judging the future but by the past, and the past says pay Matt Bryant.
I’ll gladly belabor the point here: the Falcons must re-sign Matt Bryant. Father Time be damned, Mister Money is still bombing footballs through uprights at absurd distances in the waning years of his NFL career. He’s already expressed a desire to return, and Atlanta is well-positioned to secure his services on a team-friendly deal. Bryant was the key to many of the wins in the latter part of the 2017 season, and anticipating that the offense rebounds from a relatively middling year, bringing him back may mean that he’s putting games out of reach rather than being relied on to win them--but I’ll take that, too.
Show me the Money, Jerry, regardless of whether your name is Jerry
There are several free agents the Falcons would be better off retaining heading into 2018, including Adrian Clayborn, Dontari Poe, and LaRoy Reynolds. But every single one of those guys, with the possible exception of Poe, can be replaced with another, younger player with upside this offseason in the draft. Try replacing the best kicker in franchise history, though, and the number of things that could go awry approach triple digits. The Falcons have to get Bryant under contract for at least one more year, and start seriously thinking about their future at kicker after that.