Well, the summer months are about to be here in full force, with the Atlanta Falcons all looking to get that last little bits of rest and relaxation in before July’s training camp gets here, and another season begins to get into full gear.
May was fairly eventful for Falcons fans, with that big Matt Ryan extension finally falling through, the team adding a new defensive tackle in Terrell McClain and news coming out that Julio Jones wants a raise to readjust his annual salary with that of the best receivers in the league (of which he is one).
But, as June and the boring part of July begin to creep their ugly heads into our visage, what do we have to think about in regard to the Dirty Birds?
Jones is obviously the big name to watch here, as he could opt to hold out of mandatory mini-camp in June if he’s not gotten a deal by then. How the deal might go is anyone’s guess, though the Antonio Brown extension from 2017 is a good guess. If you ask me, this one will likely get wrapped up by training camp. They won’t want Jones sitting out any portion of camp, and even though he’s the consummate team player, that doesn’t mean he won’t sit out at least a portion of July camp if the deal isn’t done. Maybe he will decide to wait until 2019 to restart the conversation. We’ll have to see.
Jake Matthews and Ricardo Allen are the other two names to watch this summer, with Matthews’ new deal possible at any time before he’s set to reach free agency next March (well, uh, that won’t happen). It’s simply a waiting game at this point to see when Jake cashes in, as it’s pretty much locked that the team will move forward with him protecting Ryan’s blindside in the years to come.
As Dave noted previously, Ricardo Allen has yet to sign his second round tender, and is angling for an extension himself. It’s a rather hot topic on Falcons Twitter as to whether or not Allen should, and will, get extended, though the team may feel differently about how much of a debate it is. We’ve seen indications from time to time on how important Allen is to the defense from Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel, and there’s been talk of an extension before for Allen from the team. Odds are he’ll sign his tender later in the summer, and this conversation will pick back up in the spring, but don’t be surprised if this is the deal that shocks fans here soon, or later in the fall.
Any More Free Agent Additions?
After adding McClain, the team looks pretty set as a roster, but that can always change, particularly if Duke Riley’s WLB spot is indeed more open to a change than some think. Mychal Kendricks is available as of press time, and is absolutely a possibility for that spot if the team doesn’t feel Riley is quite ready to start.
Other than that, the roster is pretty firm: we’ve got three fullbacks battling it out for that spot, tons of receiving and offensive linemen options to go around, some good, young competition at the reserve defensive line and safety spots and tons of cornerbacks to round out the depth.
I’ve long felt that tight end is a possibility for a veteran addition, but don’t look for that to happen unless Eric Saubert struggles in camp and in the preseason. Now, if he does, and it’s becoming clear he’s going to need another year of development, that might be a place to watch as the season grows closer. But, as of now, TE2 is Saubert’s role to lose.
Other than that, we just hope the injury bug stays out of Flowery Branch, because the roster looks fairly set.
Once rookie minicamp rolls around, we’ll get a better look at the new Falcons rookies, and check in on how they’re doing. Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver and Deadrin Senat will be the marquee names to follow, as they’ll be the ones who get the most reps in 2018. Ridley has apparently already hit the ground running, so his development in particular will be fun to follow. Also, we’ll see how the returner battle goes on, and if new WR/CB Russell Gage can factor in there.
We’ll also see how the UDFA darlings will be in 2018, and how painful it will be when they all get cut...kidding...mostly. WR Dontez Byrd was insanely productive in college and could be a sleeper addition to the offense, as could T/G Matt Gono. On defense, look at guys like DT Jon Cunningham, OLB Anthony Winbush and OLB Emmanuel Smith to perhaps compete for roster spots.
Other than that, it’s slim pickings for Dirty Bird news, but always keep an eye out for a surprise notice here and there. That’s what summer is for, after all.
Stay hydrated, and see some good movies this summer. We’ll be here for the full stretch, and training camp will be here before you know it.