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Reggie McKenzie, Champ Kelly join Rick Smith on list of potential Falcons GM candidates

There are at least four names connected to Atlanta’s GM search today, per reports, and all of them are intriguing.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s general manager search likely won’t be concluded until January 2021, if not later, but we’re staring to get reports about who they’re targeting. That includes one from this morning that includes former Texans general manager Rick Smith and former Raiders GM and current Dolphins senior personnel executive Reggie McKenzie

This list will likely grow in the weeks ahead—you can bet on a larger internal one, but we haven’t seen all the names yet—but it’s an encouraging start. Here’s the four that the team has been linked to as of today.

The Falcons’ list includes former Texans GM Rick Smith, Bears assistant director of personnel Champ Kelly, Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes and former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, among others, according to league sources.

Let’s start with the most experienced candidates. Smith, as Matt Chambers wrote this morning, was the Texans general manager from 2006-2017 and executive vice president of football operations. During his time in Houston, he built a team that went to the playoffs six times over that span and drafted stars including Mario Williams, J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Deshaun Watson. His track record and experience—he was the Denver Broncos director of pro personnel from 2000-2005, too—make him perhaps the most interesting candidate on this list for me.

McKenzie played linebacker in the NFL from 1985-1992 and transferred into pro personnel in his post-playing career, coming up through the ranks with the Packers and settling in as their pro personnel director from 1997-2007 before taking the director of football operations role for Green Bay. He then moved on to become the general manager for the Raiders, doing his level best with a deeply dysfunctional organization, before he was forced out and moved on to a senior role with the Dolphins. His draft history in particular is more mixed, but the Raiders are a difficult organization to work for and his 2014 class was tremendous, and his varied experience makes him a strong candidate as well.

Kelly was a finalist for the Jets general manager job but did not land it, which may have been the best thing for his career. He’s a well-regarded personnel man who has been with the Bears in scouting and assistant director of player personnel roles since 2015, joining up after spending 2008-2014 with the Broncos. Unlike Smith and Kelly he has no experience as an NFL general manager, but he was the briefly the GM of the Lexington Horsemen of the National Indoor Football League, a league he also played in. He’d be an addition if the team loves his thinking on personnel, but he is also an experienced candidate in his own right who is clearly well-regarded around the league.

The final name on this list is Brad Holmes. He’s the college scouting director for the Rams, who of course have had plenty of quality draft classes in recent years. He’s the least experienced and probably least likely candidate to get the job, but people within the Rams organization reportedly love him and he’s obviously a smart, thoughtful guy.

As I said before, there will be more names coming out as the weeks proceed, but this is a very strong bunch of candidates in my eyes. I’d be particularly thrilled with Smith.