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The Falcons are keeping the players they need to keep

You live and die by your stars, and the Falcons aren’t letting them walk.

Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawk Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

This piece started off as a “what a new Deion Jones contract means for the Falcons” article, but then I realized it was too blindingly obvious to bother with. Keeping one of the true stars of this defense, not to mention one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, is a huge win. The fact that they managed to get him locked down for less than a team paid C.J. Mosley is frankly astonishing.

So let’s take another obvious but important tack instead: The Falcons are doing the right thing by keeping these guys around, and they’ve done the right thing most of the offseason. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

For much of this team’s history, you couldn’t count on them acquiring, developing, and retaining the right players. The list of whiffs and missteps is so lengthy that it barely bears repeating, but they’ve bled a lot of talent. With questions swirling all offseason about how close the Falcons and Grady Jarrett were, and the knowledge that they’d need to get several big contracts done before next March, it was fair to wonder if that might happen in painful fashion again.

Instead, the Falcons exceeded even my wildest expectations, locking up Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett in the same week. They’ll likely get Julio Jones done, if not before training camp, then before the season. That leaves them heading into next offseason with plenty of contract talks still to go, but their true stars already locked up for multiple years.

If the Falcons were going to build on any progress they’ve made with the defense over the years—and thanks to injuries and coordinator clashes and the like, it’s been slow—they had to keep their best guys around. If they want to continue to have one of the league’s elite offenses, they need Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, and probably Austin Hooper, a player the team feels is headed toward a major breakout season. Thus far, the Falcons have grappled with the reality of a tight cap for the foreseeable future and kept their best players, setting them up to be successful for at least the bulk of Ryan’s remaining years with the team.

I’m not trying to suggest that keeping your best players is some mind-boggling achievement, but I am suggesting that the swiftness of this and the fact that the team is making the right decisions is extremely encouraging. With so much uncertainty swirling around the team after a lousy 2018, it’s nice to know we can count on them not collapsing in the short term.