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Thomas Dimitroff: The Falcons will continue to build around “pillar players”

It’s the latest confirmation that Atlanta will always prioritize its stars.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Falcons have indicated, with their words and their actions, the same consistent message over the last decade-plus. That message is simply this: If you’re a star and you’re a leader, you belong on the Atlanta Falcons.

That message has waxed and waned over the years—we all remember the team letting go of John Abraham, don’t we?—but it has been consistent in the Dan Quinn era. The Falcons have prioritized the likes of Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, and Julio Jones, refusing to play hardball with their best players. The results have been far from perfect, but the Falcons have consistently contended from 2008-2018 thanks in no small part to their best guys, especially Ryan.

It’s in a compelling piece by Kevin Clark at The Ringer about Ryan’s contract that Dimitroff delivers his latest version of that particular sermon. The crux of the piece is that Matt Ryan is fast becoming a bargain after becoming the first man to get a $30 million per year annual average on his contract, with several players eclipsing him and more (like Jared Goff and Dak Prescott) coming soon. There has been a lot of talk about the competitive advantage of having a good QB on a rookie contract, but the Falcons aren’t keen to be the team that pilots the cycling QBs approach.

“I was literally moved to say ‘That’s asinine,’” Dimitroff said of the first time he heard of it. “I understand the idea. But when you’re sitting on this side of the desk, and you think about the precariousness of churning a quarterback out like that, going through a few years, and saying, ‘OK, go, time to find the next one.’ You want to talk about unnerving and unsettling and staying up all night? That’s what a lot of people do who don’t have a quarterback in this league.”

That’s true across the roster. The Falcons have had terrific draft success in recent years, which has allowed them the flexibility to move on from players they might have tried to keep around in the past. They’er instead spending big dollars on the guys they’ve identified as being truly vital to the team’s fortunes, which raises interesting questions for guys like De’Vondre Campbell who are set to get new contracts next season.

“Yes, of course, you need the proper backups and rounded talent, but I truly believe you win with pillar players,” Dimitroff said. “If you are not taking care of your pillar players, there’s a degradation of your organization, not only on the field, but off the field. So I, humbly, believe we’ve picked our players well, and they are legitimate leaders for us. We’ll look at those players who are our pillar players, and will be dedicated, financially, to taking care of them.”

The Falcons, in other words, intend to remain a top-heavy team with their shiniest stars dominating the competition. If they continue to draft well and if they can avoid major injuries going forward, it’ll probably be a successful strategy. For the sake of the team and its many fans, let’s hope that’s the case, and that the likes of Ryan, Jarrett, and the Joneses have many great years ahead.