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Expect Falcons' defense to reflect Marquand Manuel's no-nonsense approach


David Newton

ESPN.com | 7:00 AM ET


Don't mess with Marquand Manuel during pregame warm-ups. You're liable to catch some heat.

On any given game day, you'll see the 37-year-old with his headphones on, drowning out the noise as he bobs his head to the beat. He'll run a few laps around the stadium with a menacing stare on his face, like an assassin fixated on his next victim.

Folks unfamiliar with the Atlanta Falcons likely would mistake Manuel for a player. His players view him as a guy who will cuss anybody out, make no mistake about it. That's part of the reason why Manuel commands respect as he makes the leap from secondary coach to defensive coordinator, a move made official Friday.

"M, he's a perfectionist," free safety Ricardo Allen said of Manuel. "He knows the ins and outs of every player. He does the studying. He has the passion to lead. He's a natural leader. And people are willing to follow him."

Manuel is a coach willing to put on cleats, line up opposite his defensive backs and get physical with them off the line. His hands-on approach and aggressive style just might be the added push the Falcons need to elevate an improving defense to yet another level.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn relieved former defensive coordinator Richard Smith of his duties earlier in the week, with Smith now reportedly interviewing to be linebackers coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Quinn took over playcalling duties from Smith late in the regular season, during a Dec. 4 game against Kansas City. It was about that time Atlanta's defense started to show remarkable improvement, surrendering 21.4 points per game over the final seven, including the playoffs, after allowing 27.6 over the first 12.

Manuel had a hand in the improvement, too. According to multiple sources, Manuel was involved in playcalling involving nickel situations. Maybe it was an audition. Maybe it was just a matter of getting a different coaching perspective. Whatever the case, there's confidence in Manuel's ability to make the defensive calls, even if Quinn, the former defensive coordinator in Seattle, has a heavy hand in it moving forward.

Quinn no doubt will refer to it as a collaborative effort, but Manuel will get ample opportunity to run the defensive show despite no prior coordinating experience. He knows the defense thoroughly, having previously served as the assistant defensive-backs coach under Quinn in Seattle.

Allen wisely declined to discuss anything related to playcalling, but he certainly backed Manuel as his defensive coordinator.

"The players are going to be pushed by him daily, and he's going to push us to another level to be great," Allen said. "I think he's a good person for the job because he'll put the work in."

Manuel will have to deal with scrutiny, of course, but expect him to be unfazed. Folks will bring up the story of him asking then-draft prospect Eli Apple, now with New York Giants, if he liked men during an interview at the NFL combine. Manuel was publicly reprimanded by the organization and required to go through sensitivity training; he apologized for the embarrassment he caused.

If Manuel's defense falters in matchups against Drew Brees, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton next season, he'll certainly hear criticism. But again, it's not his personality to be rattled, no matter the situation.

As with the rest of the Falcons, Manuel will enter the 2017 season with a bad taste in his mouth from the Super Bowl LI implosion in which Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead in a crushing, 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots. But at least Manuel knows he'll have a talented group around him that in 2016 featured NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr., emerging nose tackle Grady Jarrett, rookie standouts Deion Jones and Keanu Neal and Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant, who will return after missing the season's second half following pectoral surgery. The improved speed on defense, coupled with the presence of Trufant as a shutdown corner, will allow the Falcons to continue the trend of playing more man-to-man defense, as they did successfully later in the season.

Manuel’s ability to get the best out of his players was evident in the way cornerback Jalen Collins made a dramatic leap in his second season as a replacement for Trufant; in the way cornerback Robert Alford shook off problems with penalties to become a playmaker; in the way Brian Poole went from being undrafted to evolving into a reliable nickelback; and in the way Neal and Allen were able to work in unison at the safety spots.

Again, Manuel is all about an aggressive, attacking style. It's in his nature as a former NFL strong safety. That's the mentality and approach you see from him every day in practice. And that's the look you'll see in his eyes every game day.

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How the Atlanta Falcons will battle history in their attempt to return to the Super Bowl


by Dave Choate Feb 10, 2017, 3:00pm EST

The Falcoholic  


I believe, wholeheartedly, in this Falcons football team. I think Dan Quinn is the right man to helm it, that the coaching staff and front office are well-stocked with bright minds, and the roster has enough talent to contend. Few teams are as well-positioned as Atlanta, though I don’t need to tell you that there are no guarantees.

We must reckon with the past, though. Atlanta’s about to try to return to the Super Bowl and win it this time, which is a major undertaking no matter what year it is.

The last team that lost a Super Bowl one year and made it back the next year was the Buffalo Bills, who did that three times during the most woeful dynasty in NFL history. No team has done so since 1993, then. That is an eternity in the world of this football league.

The good news, as it is, is that aside from the 2016 Panthers and 2008 Patriots, every team in the last decade has made it to the playoffs the following year. The other good news is that what has happened in the past does not necessarily dictate the future, and the Falcons could make some more history if they can get to Minnesota.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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2017 Atlanta Falcons Full Mock Draft - 1.0


by ericrobinson Feb 14, 2017, 12:00pm EST

The Falcoholic  


Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome Eric Robinson to The Falcoholic! You’ve likely seen his Falcons and NFL work all over the interwebs, and now he’s here to deliver our first mock draft of the season.

If you’re still weeping over a Super Bowl that I will not mention in full, it’s okay. I think most of us are.

However, the Atlanta Falcons must turn their full attention to the interesting offseason that lies ahead. Progressing through the offseason means that the team will utilize the draft and free agency to fill holes and help take that next step to a possible Super Bowl Championship.

With head coach Dan Quinn’s philosophy and new faces in place in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, it will also be interesting to see how the team approaches the draft. Thanks to improved play at key positions, Atlanta’s draft strategy has changed.

Besides, mock drafts are fun. I like them. Hopefully, you will enjoy this one also. Let’s get started.

The performance by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the Super Bowl was a slight surprise, and the three sacks by the interior lineman showed how important he can be moving forward on the defensive line. At times this season, lineman Ra’Shede Hageman also took a positive step in his development and will be a piece to the puzzle as well.

What the team needs is a third Musketeer. Someone who can come in and be a constant disruptor at the 3-tech defensive tackle position. With veteran Jonathan Babineaux eyeing retirement and the possibility of Tyson Jackson not returning, grabbing a prospect such as Brantley provides a stout tackle with the ability to be a terror next to Jarrett and/or Hageman. Brantley is powerful and has scary athleticism for a guy weighing roughly 315 lbs. The combination of Brantley, Jarrett, Hageman, and a possible free agent pickup can give Atlanta interior talent that will enhance the defense.

Edge rusher Vic Beasley led the league this past season with 15.5 sacks. The Falcons defense as a whole totaled 34 sacks. That’s a nice step up from the 19 sacks the defense equaled during the 2015 season.

Despite all that, the team saw key injuries to defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby, which forced 36-year-old Dwight Freeney to see more snaps than the originally wanted from him. Beasley’s production soaked up almost half of the team sacks. An occurrence that Quinn and the defensive staff can not see in 2017.

So grabbing a 6’5 260 lbs defensive end in Willis gives the Falcons another key piece along their defensive line. Willis has a Michael Bennett-esque skill set with quality size, arm length, and very good stack-and-shed ability. Willis was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 with 52 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He gives the team an actual buffer in case Shelby’s Achilles injury takes away from his overall skill (which is a possibility). The pass rusher will need a little time to develop but he has enough ability to give the Falcons another disruptor and take a little pressure off Beasley.

The Falcons currently have a very good offensive line led by All-Pro center Alex Mack and left tackle Jake Matthews. During this offseason, the coaching staff and front office have a decision to make regarding their offensive line, even so.

Right guard Chris Chester is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and it’s quite possible he is not retained. The veteran is 34 years of age and retirement rumors have also popped up. While the line is overall solid, an upgrade at the guard position is very much conceivable.

Johnson is 6’5 315 lbs and brings solid athleticism at the position. One of his best qualities is his ability to get to the second level to take on defenders. Something that is a constant in the zone-blocking scheme that Sarkisian will continue to operate out of. He also is solid in pass protection and can be nice building block on a veteran offensive line.

Tight end Austin Hooper was a nice addition via last year’s draft for the Falcons. Hooper started off deep in the depth chart but ended the season as the team’s top weapon at the position.

The Falcons only have two tight ends under contract next season in Hooper and raw second-year Joshua Perkins. Veteran tight ends Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Neither is guaranteed to be on this roster for the regular season opener.

Smith is an athletic specimen with quality NFL size at 6’3 245 lbs. He was second on the Panthers in catches last season with 42 and has 178 career catches at FIU. Smith also provides solid blocking ability with room to grow in that department as well. Having Smith along with Hooper gives Atlanta two tight ends that can line out wide and create mismatches for an already explosive offense.

Also facing free agency is backup linebacker Phillip Wheeler. Wheeler manned the backup strong-side for the Falcons this past season. On occasion, Wheeler gave the team useable depth. While on other occasions...let’s just say the team can use an upgrade.

Taylor played considerable time with the Cougars at inside linebacker but his skill set would be a better fit filling the SAM position on the depth chart. He will need to bulk a little but his youthful injection and pass rushing ability adds a taste of versatility. This past season, Taylor totaled 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and 74 total tackles. Taylor has a physical nature to his game that can be used as quality depth in Atlanta over time. Not to mention, he can be a nice piece on special teams.

Round 6, 215th Overall - Avery Gennesy, OL , Texas A&M  (NOTE: This pick may be lost due to the Andy Levitre trade) 

There is nothing wrong with added depth. Especially in the trenches. So the Falcons add more depth on an already good offensive line.

Gennesy has experience playing at both guard and offensive tackle but he may be best on the outside. He’s at a point in his development where he needs to work on his overall functional strength. Outside of that, Gennesy has enough qualities to shore up the backup left tackle position behind former A&M tackle Jake Matthews.

For the last pick in the draft, the Falcons add even more speed to the team by selecting the hometown dynamite in McKenzie.

McKenzie does not have a ton of size, but what he does have is rare speed and the ability to score at any given moment. McKenzie has experience in the return game, both kick and punt. The team employed veteran Eric Weems at the return positions but Weems is not necessarily the most reliable in that department. The team drafted receiver Devin Fuller last year in the same round for the same purpose. A preseason shoulder injury cancelled Fuller’s rookie season. So why not spice things up a little in the return department and create a training camp battle between two speedsters? McKenzie’s ability is worth taking a chance on at this point in the draft.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Roddy White: I probably 'would've fought' Kyle Shanahan after Falcons' Super Bowl loss


Fox News  


Roddy White is still very passionate about the Atlanta Falcons after spending all 11 years of his NFL career with the franchise before retiring in 2015. So it's only obvious that the former Pro Bowl wideout took the Falcons' overtime loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI pretty hard, even though he didn't play a down last season.

White wasn't upset so much about the team's performance but rather the play-calling -- more specifically on the offensive side. He took aim at former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan during the "We Never Played the Game" podcast Tuesday.

"I'm glad I wasn't a part of that team because I probably literally would've fought him," White said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

White believes Shanahan, who left the Falcons to become the 49ers head coach earlier this month, did not play it safe when the Falcons blew a 25-point lead in the second half as Atlanta allowed 31 unanswered points to New England in the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

"You destroyed a dream for a city," said White, who finished with 808 catches for 10,863 yards and 63 TDs during his career. "It's bigger than me. The city of Atlanta needed that championship and you had it. Arthur Blank needed that championship and he deserved to win that game, with everything he's been through. It was finally our time to win and it just hurt me that we didn't get it done."

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Taylor Gabriel: I want to stay with Falcons 'forever'


Chris Wesseling Around the NFL Writer

NFL.com | Sun 6:30PM EST FOX


Might Falcons wideout Taylor Gabriel follow in Patriots postseason hero Chris Hogan's 2016 footsteps as a restricted free agent who sought greener pastures?

As far as Gabriel is concerned, he is content to stay in Atlanta.

"Of course, I want to be a Falcon forever," Gabriel recently told ESPN.com. "Just the camaraderie and the group, from Dan Quinn to the owner. And everyone has bought into what we have here. Yes, I want to be a Falcon forever."

Although an extension for cornerback Desmond Trufant is the team's top priority, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said last week that Gabriel is another player deserving of a new contract.

"It's going to be positive for him," Dimitroff said of Gabriel. "Yes, we want him back as well."

Atlanta has until March 9 to extend a contract tender designed to discourage the other 31 teams from signing Gabriel to an offer sheet.

The most likely tender is the second-round level worth just under $3 million. Under that scenario, any team planning to sign Gabriel would have to surrender a second-round pick to the Falcons.

Gabriel was the waiver pickup of the year, recording a league-best 139.9 passer rating when targeted last season. The speedster broke free for a game-breaking play of 40 or more yards in eight of 13 regular-season games.

"I feel like I have something that a lot of people don't have," Gabriel explained during Super Bowl week, "and that's the ability to change directions while running full speed."

Gabriel is certainly talented enough to lure potential poachers next month. Between the likely second-round price tag and the organization's commitment to maintaining the offensive nucleus, though, he's unlikely to leave Atlanta.

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Former Rutgers Head Coach Kyle Flood Hired by Atlanta Falcons


by JimHoffman@RURahFan Feb 18, 2017, 10:00am EST

On the Banks  


The reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons have announced the hiring of former Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood as assistant offensive line coach. The story broke in an article by NJ.com’s Keith Sergeant yesterday. The Falcons’ announcement on Twitter that linked the press release did not focus on the hiring of Flood, but of new QB coach Bush Hamden.

The press release provides a detailed biography of Flood, including his stops at Hofstra University and the University of Delaware. It is the Hofstra connection that led to this hire, as Flood was coaching for the FCS Hofstra Pride at the same time Falcons’ Head Coach Dan Quinn was Hofstra’s running backs and later wide receiver coach.

Flood will be working with an offensive line that was credited with being a major cog in the Falcons’ impressive season in 2016-2017, culminating in a NFC Championship and a Super Bowl appearance. That appearance was marred by a shocking loss that had the New England Patriots staging the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, beating the Falcons 34-28, after trailing them 28-3.

With his hire by the Falcons, Coach Flood will be reunited with former Rutgers wide receiver Mohamad Sanu, who just finished his first season with the Falcons. Sanu was a free agent following four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, and signed a five-year, $32.5M contract a year ago when he joined the Falcons.

While he has made no formal announcement on Twitter, Flood is acknowledging Tweets to the news, as seen in this exchange:

Additionally, his background graphic on Twitter is a Falcons’ graphic:


The Scarlet Knights head coach from the 2012 through 2015 seasons, Flood holds the distinction of being the only head coach in Rutgers football history to take the team to bowl games in his first three seasons as head coach. He also led the team in their initial season in the Big Ten, compiling a 7-5 regular season record which was capped by a convincing 40-21 win over North Carolina in the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl in December 2014.

Kyle Flood was originally hired by former head coach Greg Shiano in 2005 as the offensive line coach. Promoted to assistant head coach in 2008, Kyle was named head coach by former athletic director Tim Pernetti. This hire was immediately following Schiano’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just prior to National Signing Day in 2012. Flood was credited with keeping a talent-laden class intact in the time between Schiano’s departure and signing day that year.

In September 2015, a cascading number of issues, including arrests of several players (and their subsequent dismissal from the team) and Flood being accused of impermissible contact with instructors created a maelstrom that eventually engulfed Flood, leading to suspensions and fines during the season and his firing the day after the conclusion of the 2015 season.

Since his firing, Flood has kept a relatively low public profile, the exception being his appearances on Sirius XM’s College Sports Channel 84. He filled in periodically as co-host for the College Sports Today program as well as being a regular on The Tailgating Show where he previewed college games every Saturday morning this past season. There had been no widespread discussion of this hire prior to the Falcons’ announcement on February 17, 2017.

Hired with Flood was former Rutgers assistant Dave Brock, who most recently was head coach of the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. Brock joined the Blue Hens following one season as Rutgers’ offensive coordinator during Kyle Flood’s first season as head coach in 2012.

In his time as head coach of the Scarlet Knights, Kyle Flood compiled a 27-24 record overall, and a bowl record of 1-2, the sole win in the Quick Lane Bowl mentioned above, and losses to Virginia Tech in 2012 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2013.

Despite the difficult way his tenure as head coach ended in 2015, it has been generally agreed that Coach Flood was a coach that was close to his players, and was a true gentleman in all situations. We at On the Banks wish him well in his new position.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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2017 NFL free agency: 3 potential Atlanta Falcons cap casualties


by Dave Choate Feb 17, 2017, 8:00am EST

The Falcoholic  


As we’ve noted, the Atlanta Falcons don’t feel like they have major roster holes, and they have enough money to extend a couple of key players, re-ink most of their key free agents, and maybe make one splash.

If they want to do more than that, they have the option of cutting players to carve out more room. If they’re going to cut anybody, the three names on this list seem like likely choices.

If the Falcons are looking to save some $$$, here’s three candidates for that big, red and black axe.

Cap Savings: $2.65 million

Dead Money: $3.2 million

Free Agent Year: 2019

In 2018, when the Falcons can save almost $5 million by cutting Tyson Jackson, he may be in genuine danger. I’m not convinced he will be in 2017, not when less than $3 million is on the table, and the Falcons could be pretty thin at defensive tackle.

For all the deserved flak T-Jax gets for his production versus his contract, he’s played in 16 games for three straight seasons and remains a solid run defender. With Jonathan Babineaux likely headed out, the Falcons are still going to need a steady reserve. It’s going to come down to whether they think Tyson Jackson is that guy, or if they think they can do more with $2.65 million.

Cap Savings: $3.9 million

Dead Money: $2.75 million

Free Agent Year: 2019

After a shaky 2015 season, Andy Levitre was much improved in 2016. That may have been due partly to having Alex Mack next to him, but still, Levitre was a genuine asset. The question is, will that be enough to keep him from being cut?

That likely depends on what the Falcons intend to do at guard. If they want to re-sign Chris Chester or expend a high round pick on a guard and they like Wes Schweitzer to fill one of the starting spots, Levitre could be on the chopping block. That’s a lot of ifs, which is why I believe Levitre will be back, but $3.9 million in savings this year and $7 million in savings next year is not chump change. You’ll want to watch his status.

Cap Savings: $2.2 million

Dead Money: $2.82 million

Free Agent Year: 2019

Like Jackson, Reed has not lived up to his contract to this point. Also like Jackson, the savings the Falcons will realize by releasing Reed this year are only significant if the Falcons have a target in mind with the money and feel they won’t miss the player very much.

Given that Reed had two sacks, came to life in a big way early in the playoffs, and plays a relative position of need for these Falcons, I don’t imagine he’ll be cut. With Vic Beasley, Derrick Shelby, Adrian Clayborn, and possibly Courtney Upshaw returning and plenty of talent in the draft, it’s not a done deal for Reed that he’ll be here, even so.

If the Falcons were to cut all three of these players, for some reason, they would save about $8 million. That would buy you another nice free agent or two, but unless they’re going to replace all of these guys with solid mid-tier players or rookies, you’re talking about removing a starter and two quality part-timers from the rotation. Given that this team has not seemed overly interested in paying out the nose for multiple big-time free agents, I doubt you’ll see more than one man here cut.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Julio Jones ranks as NFL's best receiver on two types of pass routes





Pro Football Focus has judged the effectiveness of every wide receiver during the 2016 season on each of the pass routes commonly used in the NFL. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones ranked at the top a couple of times.

After all, the former Foley High School and Alabama standout earned first-team All-Pro recognition for the second straight season as he helped the Falcons win the NFC championship and go to the Super Bowl.

Jones was the best receiver in the NFL on in/out routes, PFF said.

In routes and out routes are pass patterns where a receiver running down the field makes a hard cut to the side in or out, respectively, with the average throw on such routes during the 2016 season at 9.73 yards.

PFF said: "Receivers who are able to cut on a dime will typically be most successful on these routes."

On these routes, Jones came up with a reception 31 of the 35 times he was thrown the ball. The 31 catches gained 534 yards - 61 more yards than any other NFL receiver gained on in and out routes even though the No. 2 player, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots was thrown to 21 more times than Jones was.

PFF reported 149 of Jones' 534 yards came after the catch. The average throw to Jones on in and out routes covered 12.86 yards.

PFF also said Jones was the best receiver in the league on post routes. This pass pattern calls for the receiver to run deep and make a diagonal cut toward the center of the field, as though he were running to the goalpost.

Jones had 13 receptions for 392 yards on the 20 balls thrown his way on post routes.

On all routes in 2016, Jones caught 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games.



Copyright © 2017 by STATS LLC.All rights reserved.

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Report: Atlanta Falcons cutting ties with athletic performance manager AJ Neibel


James Rael



Fact: Dan Quinn hates mint flavored toothpaste

The Atlanta Falcons started tweaking their coaching staff immediately after the Super Bowl. It’s not an uncommon practice and you shouldn’t read into it. That said these changes are coming fast and furious. Today Vaughn McClure broke news of another coaching change.

“Athletic performance manager” isn’t exactly a euphemism for strength and conditioning coach. That’s because at Flowery Branch, the head strength and conditioning coach served under Neible. (For what it’s worth, Neible started with the Falcons the year after those sketchy prescription drug emails were sent, so there’s no reason to infer any connection to those shenanigans.) He’s held his current position for three seasons, so he is a holdover from the Mike Smith regime.

It’s a logical time to make this move. The off-season programing will kick off in the not so distant future, and his replacement will want to get started immediately. Jesse Ackerman is the current “head strength and conditioning coach.” One wonders whether he’d be a logical replacement for Neibel. Ackerman started with the Falcons last February. He also has a University of Florida connection, so I’m quite sure he’s on Dan Quinn’s good side.

Your thoughts?


© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Falcons 2017 free agent targets: G Ronald Leary


Tim Weaver




The Atlanta Falcons don't have any glaring holes on their roster heading into 2017, but several positions could use a polish.

One of the darker stains for Atlanta this past season was at right guard, which was the weak link for an otherwise stellar offensive line. Veteran Chris Chester is 34-years old and unlikely to improve dramatically at this point in his career.

While the Falcons are supposedly intent on bringing him back, they would do well to consider bringing in an upgrade.

As it happens, this is a strong free agent class at guard and they might have a chance to poach one from the best unit in football: Ronald Leary of the Dallas Cowboys.

The frame

Weighing in at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, Leary is a solidly-built lineman who is just entering his athletic prime at 27 years old. At his NFL Combine Leary posted 30 bench press reps a 104 inch broad jump and a 4.91 second 20-yard shuttle. That's a lot of power to pack into one body and Leary has used it well as part of Dallas' elite front five.

The stats

No team has done a better job of pass protection over the last several years than the Cowboys and Leary has been in the thick of it at times. This past season Pro Football Focus rated Leary at 80.4 overall, which ranked No. 24 among guards. He earned strong grades in pass blocking (78.7) and run blocking as well (82.5).

The need

Few NFL lineman are equally adept at both pass protection and run blocking and Chester is no exception. In 2016 the Falcons allowed 37 sacks and 106 hits, many of which were the result of pressure created on the right side of the line. By comparison, Dallas allowed just 28 sacks and 69 hits. Just imagine what Matt Ryan could have done with that kind of protection.

The pass-blocking lapses were not all Chester's fault, but Leary provides an opportunity to upgrade in both aspects without breaking the bank.

The figures

According to figures available at Over the Cap, the right guards that are paid the most in the NFL are David DeCastro of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kyle Long of the Chicago Bears, who are both earning $10 million per year.

Leary is not going to make that much money, even from a team that is desperate for guard help and the salary cap rising constantly.

If the Falcons are interested in Leary, it will probably take an offer in the area of $5-$7 million per season to pry him away from the Cowboys, but getting into a bidding war with Jerry Jones is not generally considered a good idea.

As free agents are concerned, this is a deep class for guards. However, Leary's youth and experience with a top-notch line may put him near the top of the heap.


© 2017 Microsoft

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Jonathan Babineaux says farewell, thanks Falcons fans on Instagram


Tim Weaver



After an epic 12-year run, the Jonathan Babineaux era appears to be coming to an end for the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta's popular veteran defensive tackle sent out a message for Falcons fans on his Instagram account earlier today that indicates he is leaving the team:

"Thank you to ALL my TRU Dirty Bird fans!! I want to salute EVERYBODY not only just this year but for the last 12yrs, through the ups and downs season you always stayed !!!! #Luv#ATL#Brotherhood"
File photo: Jonathan Babineaux says farewell, thanks Falcons fans on Instagram  © File photo Jonathan Babineaux says farewell, thanks Falcons fans on Instagram 
Babineaux first came to the Falcons in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He has since appeared in 185 career games, collecting 394 tackles and 27 sacks.

At this time it's unclear whether Babineaux has decided to retire or if he has been released from the team.

If Babineaux has indeed played his last game in Atlanta, the Falcons may chose to fill his spot by using a high-draft pick on an interior lineman. However, the Falcons may be better served by looking to free agency instead, given the strong class of veterans about to hit the market.

The former Iowa Hawkeye's exit will be part of a larger re-making of Atlanta's defensive line. Babineau's fellow tackle Tyson Jackson is also possibly on his way out unless he's willing to return at a discounted rate.


© File photo

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Dwight Freeney will ‘most likely’ return for his 16th NFL season


by Jeanna Thomas@jeannathomas Feb 27, 2017, 6:35pm EST



Veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney is still uncertain of his future, but USA Today’s Tom Pelissero reports that Freeney will play a 16th NFL season. ESPN’s Jim Trotter reported that Freeney hadn’t made a decision, but would “most likely” play in 2017.

Freeney is fresh off of his third Super Bowl appearance, this time with the Atlanta Falcons, where he spent his final season not only contributing on the field, but also mentoring a young defense and helping them develop into contenders. The Falcons came out hot, and led 28-3 in the third quarter before surrendering the biggest Super Bowl collapse in NFL history.

After a standout college career at Syracuse, where he earned unanimous All-American honors, Freeney was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft. Freeney spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Colts, winning Super Bowl XLI with Indianapolis.

During his time with the Colts, Freeney was named to the Pro Bowl seven times, and he earned first-team All-Pro honors three times. He led the league in sacks in 2004.

After two seasons with the Chargers, Freeney had a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals. An episode of the Amazon series All or Nothing with the Arizona Cardinals illustrated why Freeney has been such a successful edge rusher.

As the Cardinals prepared to face the Green Bay Packers, Freeney explained exactly how he would exploit the weaknesses of tackle Don Barclay. The result in that particular game was three sacks for Freeney, and a 38-8 victory for the Cardinals.

It was a perspective Freeney carried with him to Atlanta, and he helped instill that understanding of the “game within the game” in the Falcons’ young defense. Vic Beasley, Jr., led the league in sacks in 2016, and he credited Freeney with helping him develop.

“Just taking those game plans and executing them on game day, and then the help of Dwight,” Beasley told SB Nation in December. “He’s been a great help for our whole defensive front.”

Freeney will hope to add to his 122.5 career sacks, which places him 18th all-time.

During the week before the Falcons left for Houston to face the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, Freeney said he’d done his best to prepare his young teammates for the Super Bowl experience.

“You can explain it all you want, but there’s nothing like actually experiencing it,” Freeney said. “Running through that tunnel, hearing your team name, seeing the crowd, seeing the flashes on kickoff. I mean, those are the things that you just can’t explain enough for them to really understand. You have to experience them."

Freeney may not be with the Falcons next year as he’s heading for free agency, but it looks like he’s going to give things one more chance.


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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said "yes" he's watched the Super Bowl a lot. "I am past it, but I'm not over it. ... We got our *** knocked to the canvas."


att BowenESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talked about the growth and development from linebacker Deion Jones this past season. Communication skills on the field, reps and game speed. That allowed Jones to play to his stopwatch time (4.5). Jones produced quality tape and his skill set is an ideal fit for Quinn's system. Play in space, attack the run and win with speed. I expect Jones to push his ceiling even higher next year with more experience.


Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Dan Quinn said he's talk to Dwight Freeney but Freeney hasn't committed to wanting to come back next season. If Freeney does opt to return, Quinn said he'll be considered.


Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Dan Quinn confirmed that he took over the defensive play calling during the Kansas City game for rest of season. Will stay involved next season but will give new coordinator Marquand Manuel ample opportunity to call plays.


Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Dan Quinn said Julio Jones will meet with the doctors next week to decide whether to have toe surgery. It's being considered, Quinn said

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Julio Jones to consult with doctor on possible minor foot surgery

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will meet with Charlotte, North Carolina-based foot surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson next week to determine whether he needs a bunion on his foot removed, coach Dan Quinn confirmed Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine.

Jones said after the season that he would take a little time before deciding if he needed the procedure. Asked last month which toe he injured, Jones said, "All of them."

He previously had multiple fractures in his right foot repaired by Anderson.

"I trust him," Jones said of Anderson following a 2013 surgery. "He means a lot to me as far as that aspect of it. I put my trust into him because this is my livelihood. This is how I feed my family and everything else."

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has planned a consultation with a noted foot surgeon to determine whether he needs a bunion removed. AP Photo/Kevin Terrell

Jones, an All-Pro for the fourth time in 2016, missed two games late in the season as a result of the injury, which was initially labeled as turf toe. He still finished second in the NFL with 1,409 receiving yards on 83 catches in 14 games, while NFL leader T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts had 1,448 yards on 91 catches in 16 games.

Jones' practice time was monitored from the moment the toe injury appeared on the injury report following a Week 13 loss to Kansas City. The Falcons rested him, for the most part, during the playoff bye week leading into a divisional playoff game against Seattle.

Jones played 42 of 72 offensive snaps in a win over the Seahawks, 44 of 73 snaps in an NFC Championship Game win over Green Bay, and 40 of 49 snaps in a Super Bowl LI loss to New England.

A medical source told ESPN that the recovery from having a bunion removed is approximately four weeks.


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Dan Quinn moved past Super Bowl, but 'not over it' -- and may never be

5:37 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Almost a month later, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn reflected on his team's historic collapse in a 34-28 overtime loss to New England in Super Bowl LI, a loss that could linger for quite some time considering the Falcons blew a 25-point lead.

"When they ask me if I've watched it, I say, 'Yes, I am past it. I am not over it,'" Quinn said Wednesday at the NFL combine. "I don't think I ever will be, and that's a good thing. Sometimes those kinds of experiences propel you to have the types of offseasons that you'd like to have.

"The analogy I use for our team [is] we're fighters. For those who cover our team on a regular basis, you know we talk about boxing quite a bit. And we got our *** knocked down on the canvas. You get back up and you go fight again. That's kind of what this offseason is about for us."

Dan Quinn said he's determined to learn from the mistakes the Falcons made during their collapse in Super Bowl LI. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Specifically, Quinn revisited the late-game playcalling by former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan that came under so much scrutiny following the Super Bowl. There was a chance for the Falcons to secure their first-ever Super Bowl title despite losing the momentum, but a first-and-10 at the Patriots' 23-yard line with 4:40 left in regulation and a 28-20 lead turned into a punt that led to the game-tying score, forcing overtime.

Quinn was asked if he thought that he should have demanded Shanahan, now the 49ers head coach, run the ball a few more times in that situation to milk the clock and assure a field goal try. The Falcons ran Devonta Freeman on first down, but saw Matt Ryan sacked while dropping back to pass on second down. Then a holding penalty against Jake Matthews on third down pushed the Falcons out of field goal range.

"The first [play], we had a tackle for a loss," Quinn recalled. "On the second one, we had a play going to our best player [Julio Jones] thrown by the league's MVP [Matt Ryan]. ... I was on the headset, so I own that call, too. If we complete the ball on that one and don't take a sack, that's a gutsy call and it moves the chains.

"And the next play, a consequence of being out of field goal range, we threw it, and Matt threw a really good ball to Mo [Mohamed Sanu]. And we had a holding penalty. So the consequences were real. Those are the what-ifs that you go through, and it goes down a long list. If you told me if we ran it two more times where there's going to be no penalties and gain yards, then, yeah, I would have signed up for that. Honestly, the fact that when you go back through those, you learn from them. If there's ways to do it better, we're going to find those."

Quinn, who confirmed he took over the defensive playcalling for now-departed defensive coordinator Richard Smith in Week 13 of the regular season, also discussed if playing more man-to-man coverage against the Patriots led to his defense wearing down even more so. The Patriots ran 93 offensive plays compared to 46 for the Falcons.

"I did go back and watch the second half again; we played 29 snaps of man and 27 snaps of zone," Quinn said. "So, sometimes it may look like the way we play our zone is our man-to-man. The what-if game for sure is there and say, 'Could we have changed our leverage and not played man-to-man or played zone or played it differently?' Any time you have over 90 plays, you're going to look tired. There's byproducts of that: not playing as well on third down. We didn't have a good game third down offensively for some drives to extend and continue.

"What I was pleased about in the game was we had eight tackles for loss, we had five sacks, we had two turnovers. We scored on defense. What I wasn't happy about was all the explosive plays that they had. Some were a result of missed tackles. Some were a result of they made good plays, which happens, too. But at the end of it, I always look back and say, 'OK, what could we have done better?' That's just not in that game. It gets magnified in that game because, 'All right, if we had had a different call and played zone snap when we had a man snap, would the execution have been different?' You've got to do what you think is best at the time. At the time, I thought that playing man-to-man was going to be the best way to deny the ball."

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Quinn expects Falcons to punch back from Super Bowl loss

Atlanta head coach spoke at NFL combine




INDIANAPOLIS - Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn threw the first jab at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

When he walked to the podium Wednesday, he answered his own questions - before letting anyone else speak.

Yes, he has watched the Super Bowl tape.

No, he will not forget what happened.

And now it is time for everyone to start focusing on the future.

Nearly a month after an epic Super Bowl collapse, Quinn calmly and confidently explained how the Falcons plan to use it to their advantage next season.

"Those who cover our team on a regular basis know we talk about boxing quite a bit. We got our ***** knocked down on the canvas," he said. "You get back up and you go fight again. That's kind of what this offseason is about for us."

Boxing is a perfect example for a natural counterpuncher like Quinn.

When questioned why the Falcons were still throwing the ball in the fourth quarter, when they appeared to have the franchise's first championship locked up, Quinn defended the play-calling by saying they needed to stay aggressive. When there were questions about Atlanta's defense wearing down, the Falcons dismissed that notion, too.

Now, with a little time to reflect on what went wrong, Quinn believes he knows how to avoid a similar fate: Accept the mistakes, learn from them and make the corrections.

"No. 1, you have to own it," he said. "There are consequences good and bad when you make plays and when you don't. Owning those decisions, can we nail execution on this play better? When the opportunity comes to making a sack or creating a turnover, owning those scenarios."

It's a message the Falcons want in their corner.

As Quinn sees it, this tough blow should serve as inspiration to come back even stronger in the fall and finish it off the title run.

Historically, that hasn't happened.

It's been 45 years since the Dallas Cowboys first went from Super Bowl loser to champion. The Miami Dolphins did it the next season, too. No other team has successfully done it.

In fact, the last time a runner-up played in the next Super Bowl was when Buffalo endured the last of its record-breaking four consecutive losses in January 1994.

And only two of the last nine second-place teams have reached conference championship game.

Quinn believes his team is good enough to defy the odds - and he's not alone.

"We are a resilient group," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We are confident with Dan Quinn's leadership that we will bounce back."

And, changes are coming.

Shortly after the Super Bowl, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan accepted the head coaching job in San Francisco. Quinn subsequently hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as the replacement.

Defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox were fired three days after the season ended, moves Quinn said were unrelated to the loss. He then promoted Marquand Manuel to the top defensive job.

But it's not just Quinn who has been living with the fallout.

"Uh, yeah. I mean I second-guess just like all you guys do," Shanahan was asked if, in retrospect, he should have called more runs. "Any time a play doesn't work, you say, 'Yeah, I wish I called what works.' But the reason for calling those, why we did that, what we were thinking, I don't second-guess at all."

And that's exactly how Quinn wants it - throw a punch, take a hit, accept whatever happens next.

He figures it's the only way to have a fighter's chance in the next bout.

"When they (Falcons players) asked me if I watched it. I say 'yes. I am past it. I am not over it,'" Quinn said. "I don't think I ever will be (over it) and that's a good thing."

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Free safety Ricardo Allen looking to earn his money with Falcons


Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 5:45 PM ET


The Atlanta Falcons are pleased with what Ricardo Allen brings at the free safety position. We’ll see what that eventually translates to financially.

With Allen being an exclusive rights free agent, the Falcons can tender him at the minimum amount of $615,000 for the 2017 season, although such a tender has yet to be extended. And although Allen can’t negotiate with any other team and is likely to be locked into that amount next season, he can set himself up for a more lucrative deal down the line.

One can bet Allen’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will work diligently to get Allen more financial security for the future.

"My time is coming, and we’re just going to keep working," Allen said Monday. "We’re just going to keep working and keep staying on the path that we’re on and just keep getting better. I’m not stressing for money right now. The stats are going to keep getting better and my play is going to keep getting better. The money is going to come when it comes."

How much do the Falcons’ value Allen? Coach Dan Quinn was asked for his assessment.

"Off the field, his leadership really grew," Quinn said. "And he was a real factor for [rookie] Keanu Neal in terms of his readiness. He was often the guy behind the scenes that could help coach when the coaches aren’t there. That happens a lot more than guys think. ... That’s Ricardo taking guys to his house Thursday night to go through film together. Those examples, I thought, he really improved.

"One of the areas that he wants to improve upon is where can he make more plays to create some turnovers. Sometimes that will be, `Can I take a shot on this formation?’ Not being reckless, but knowing, `OK, all the indicators tell me right now I’ve got to go get this.'"

Allen’s regular-season statistics this past season included finishing third on the team with 90 tackles and tying for second with two interceptions. In the postseason, Allen added two more interceptions, 14 tackles and two passes defensed in the postseason. His primary role in the Cover 3 defense is to erase big plays, not so much to cover, although he had more coverage responsibilities as the Falcons utilized more man-to-man coverage.

In 31 regular-season games over the last two seasons, Allen recorded 158 tackles, five interceptions, four passes defensed and a sack. Those two-year numbers are comparable to a number of the league’s highest-paid free safeties. Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu, who tops all free safeties at $12.5 million per year, had 124 tackles, six interceptions, eight passes defensed and two sacks over that time span. Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, at $10.5 million per year, recorded 157 tackles, two interceptions and three sacks the last two seasons. And Seattle’s Earl Thomas, who makes $10 million per season, had 107 tackles, seven interceptions and 10 passes defensed during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, although Thomas missed the last five games of the ’16 season after suffering a broken leg.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff has talked constantly about the priority right now being re-signing his own players. The Falcons started the process during the season in inking cornerback Robert Alford and right tackle Ryan Schraeder to extensions. Dimitroff told ESPN a month ago that Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant will receive a lucrative contract extension this spring.

As for Allen, the exclusive-rights designation doesn’t necessarily prohibit the Falcons from signing him to a longer-term deal, but it typically doesn’t occur. Allen is not expecting to be one of the highest-paid players at his position, but he can earn himself a bigger paycheck with his play.

Dimitroff was asked for his evaluation of Allen coming off this past season.

"I thought Ricardo played well," Dimitroff said. "I thought Ricardo had a really good grasp of our defense and continued to get better and better at all levels and in all facets of his game. This was, again, new for him to transition from corner to safety. He’s done a very nice job with that. I think he’s becoming more and more of a leader as well, which has been good."

Allen knows Quinn is all about competition, and Quinn already said nickel back Brian Poole, a safety in college, could get a look at free safety next season. The Falcons will have somewhat of a surplus at cornerback with Desmond Trufant returning from pectoral surgery and his replacement, Jalen Collins, proving himself worthy of a starting role outside at corner. The Trufant-Collins combination outside is likely to send Alford into the slot, thus leading to Poole getting that look at free safety.

Besides Poole, expect the Falcons to see what the free safety draft class has to offer, particularly from a speed standpoint. A few of the free safety names to watch include Florida’s Marcus Maye, UConn’s Obi Melifonwu, Washington’s Budda Baker and Alabama’s Eddie Jackson. The 6-foot-4-inch, 224-pound Melifonwu ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds and posted a 44-inch vertical at Monday's NFL combine, boosting his stock.

The Falcons need depth at free safety with Poole or whomever, considering Allen played the end of last season essentially with no backup after the team cut Robenson Therezie.

Allen talked about his primary focus heading into next season.

"I like that I can diagnose plays and formations really, really, really fast," Allen said. "The one thing I want to do is I want to shoot my gun sometimes -- not necessarily be reckless, but be a little more free. I have to play what I see because I see a lot stuff, but sometimes I don’t go get it. That’s one thing that I want to do to take my game to the next level.

"And then being that player who can play any spot in the field. I came from playing corner, so I can do that. I want to be up playing some man to man on some slots, tight ends and running backs. I want to be able to move around. I don’t want to be just stuck in the middle of the field. I want to be a player who can do it all for the team."

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Falcons WR Julio Jones undergoes successful surgery to remove bunion


Pat McManamon

ESPN.com | 8:25 PM ET


Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones underwent minor surgery to remove a bunion on his foot Monday and said "surgery was a success" in a photo posted on Instagram.

The procedure was performed by renowned foot surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson, who previously repaired multiple fractures to Jones' right foot.

A medical source indicated a bunion removal typically calls for four weeks of recovery. If such is the case with Jones, he won't miss any team activities. The Falcons are allowed to start the offseason workout program on April 17.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said last week there was a possibility Jones would undergo surgery after meeting with Anderson. The timing of the procedure means Jones should be recovered in time for offseason workouts and minicamp.

The injury nagged Jones throughout the 2016 season and caused him to miss two games. His game and practice reps were limited late in the regular season, and the Falcons also were cautious with Jones during the postseason.

Jones still finished with 1,409 receiving yards, second behind T.Y. Hilton of Indianapolis (1,448) but in two fewer games than Hilton. Jones caught 83 passes and caught six touchdowns, tied for the team lead with Taylor Gabriel.

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Jack Crawford eager to help 'elite' Vic Beasley, Falcons

10:45 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Basketball was supposed to be his sport.

Growing up in northwest London, Jack Crawford figured he would follow his hoop dreams to stardom. He played small forward for the East London Royals Under-18 basketball squad and came to the United States to continue playing basketball at St. Augustine Prep in south New Jersey. He couldn't play immediately as a sophomore due to transfer eligibility rules.

So Crawford discovered football as a junior. Then his career took a different path.

“I had no aspirations to play football,” Crawford said in his catchy British accent. ”I didn't even really want to step on the football field.”

Some 12 years later, the 6-foot-5, 288-pound Crawford finds himself on the move again, this time to Atlanta. The defensive lineman, last with the Dallas Cowboys, will sign a three-year free-agent contract with the Falcons that carries a maximum value of $10.3 million.

“Just watching the Falcons on tape, I think their system and their philosophy on defense is very similar to how we were taught in Dallas,” Crawford said. “I love watching their defense. They like to get up the field, and that's really what suits my style of play and how I like to play.”

The Falcons need help along the defensive line and although Crawford wasn't a big-name free agent, he has value. Folks familiar with him from his days in Dallas say he is a relentless worker and a high-effort tough guy, the type of player that Falcons coach Dan Quinn wants on his defense and in his locker room. Crawford might not even be a starter, but his versatility to play any position on the line gives the Falcons options.

“We like his skill set and the physicality in which he plays the game with,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “And we feel he will add to our defensive line group.”

Jack Crawford, who came to the United States to further his basketball skills in high school, is now with the Falcons, his third NFL team. AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Crawford, who played in college at Penn State, entered the league as a fifth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2012. He signed on as a free agent in Dallas before the 2014 season. In three years with the Cowboys, he accumulated all nine of his career sacks along with 54 tackles in 1,104 snaps (38 games).

Crawford credited Cowboys defensive coordinator and defensive line guru Rod Marinelli for elevating his game.

“I can even begin to tell you what I learned from him: everything,” Crawford said of Marinelli. “Working with him over the last three years helped me learn so much about the sport and helped me progress. ... He has helped develop my mindset, my ability to play.

“I pride myself in trying to improve each and every year. Where I am now compared to where I was even last year, I'm a whole new player. I feel confident that I can build on what I've done so far. And I think Coach Marinelli is the best coach I've ever had.”

Crawford joins a Falcons team in need of “rush men,” as Marinelli would put it. Reigning NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. can't do it alone, although his 15 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles were a key to the Falcons' success last season.

“Leading the NFL in sacks in your second year, that's elite,” Crawford said of Beasley. “That's a big deal. He put it on tape, so nobody can question him. I'm excited to come assimilate to him and the group.”

There's uncertainty about defensive end Adrian Clayborn coming off a biceps tear, although the relentless Clayborn expects a full recovery. And even with the emergence of nose tackle Grady Jarrett coming off a three-sack showing in the Super Bowl, the Falcons need as many capable rushers as possible.

So how much will Crawford boost the pass rush?

“I hate to say stuff before I even get there,” Crawford said. ”I'm not the kind of person who is going to come in and say I'm going to do this and that. I just know that I'm going to work.

“The fact that this team came to me and was interested in me, that shows that I'm going to go and work hard for this team. For me, the goal is to get to the Super Bowl and to have that feeling again of just being in the playoffs. My goal is to ball out the next two years and re-sign with them the third year. That's my goal.”

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Report: Falcons restructure Schraeder's contract, save $4.8M in cap space




 30m ago
The Atlanta Falcons have created $4.8 million in salary cap space by restructuring the contract of right tackle Ryan Schraeder, ESPN's Field Yates reports.

Schrader will still receive the same amount of money, but the move simply involves his $6-million roster bonus being converted to a signing bonus.

Atlanta entered free agency toward the bottom of the league in available cap space.

Whether it's for a signing or two in the works, or perhaps the long-expected deal for standout cornerback Desmond Trufant, reworking Schraeder's deal provides some flexibility in that regard.

Scrhraeder is coming off the best season of his career, where he started all 16 games in helping Atlanta to field the NFL's top-ranked scoring offense. He was rewarded with a five-year, $31.5-million extension in November.


Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc.

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Dontari Poe unlikely to sign with Falcons, and why the defensive line market is moving slowly


by Matthew Chambers@FalcoholicMatt Mar 12, 2017, 12:00pm EDT

The Falcoholic  


The Atlanta Falcons will reportedly get a chance at Dontari Poe... if the Indianapolis Colts don’t want to pay him his asking price. I’d be a bit worried if the Colts say no to his price, but the Falcons are more than willing to cough up that money.

Don’t be surprised to see both teams ultimately pass. The market for linemen has been surprisingly sloooooooow.

In fact, there are already reports that the Falcons are unlikely to bring home the big guy.

Dave mentioned earlier that there are a ton of defensive tackles still available. The market is littered with older pass rushers, including some guys with a little juice left, like DeMarcus Ware, Chris Long, Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, Mario Williams, and Paul Kruger.

What’s with this? In almost any other year, Jonathan Hankins would have signed a five-year deal days ago. Dontari Poe could be earning $10 million or more per year. Luckily, we have an idea.

Jeanna Thomas, writer here at the Falcoholic and SBN, had an interesting takeaway while at the NFL combine. She said multiple coaches and general managers said the draft is so deep at defensive end and defensive tackle in the draft, that they expect quality players available as late as the fourth round.

Dan Quinn has had ridiculous success with his young defensive players, so don’t be surprised to see the Falcons pass on paying veterans $30 million if he thinks he can get something comparable for $3 million in the draft.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Thomas Dimitroff On Falcons Trading Freeman: ‘We Would Never Trade Him’


By Knox Bardeen

cbslocal.com | March 13, 2017 10:23 AM


ATLANTA — In the week leading up to Super Bowl 51, Devonta Freeman’s agent told NFL.com that it was time for the Pro Bowl running back to be paid like “the elite back he is.” While the timing on that announcement might not have been optimal, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff joined John Fricke and Hugh Douglas on “The Morning Show” Monday and said neither is now the right time to talk about a new deal.

Dimitroff said he has been in contact with Freeman’s agent (as recently as last week). And while Freeman’s desire for a new contract and the team’s appreciation and need for his skill set coincide, a new deal isn’t on the horizon.

“We have a good dialogue,” said Dimitroff. “I think Freeman’s in a good spot. This is where he wants to be, [and] we want him to be here for years to come. We’re confident that something’s going to get done. The timing on that is not now. The timing on that, if you look at our history, we are very particular on when we extend our guys, and that’s something that will be taken care of in due time.

“It’s not going to be a contentious issue in my mind. I think it’s going to be one that’s going to be fairly quick. We know what the market is and we’re confident we can get something done. Again, when the time is right. It won’t be during this free-agency period.”

So scratch the next few weeks or even months off the board if you were betting on when (or if) a new contract for Freeman would get signed. What about a trade, though. Rumors have been running rampant that if a deal wasn’t done, te only way to make Freeman happy would be to trade him.

Dimitroff addressed the idea of Atlanta trading their No. 1 running back.

“There was the assertion that we would trade him,” dismissed Dimitroff. “I just want to let the fan base know that that’s ridiculous. We would never trade him. He’s a very, very important part to this offense, he’s the type of runner we want considering his urgent style and his competitiveness. We’re confident that we’re going to get something done.”

LISTEN to the entire conversation with Dimitroff by clicking below, or move to the 11:22 mark to hear the Freeman portion:


©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Devonta Freeman not looking for trade out of Atlanta


Kevin Patra Around the NFL writer



Devonta Freeman is not trying to get out of Atlanta and understands a new contract will take time.

The Falcons running back told ESPN's Vaughn McClure he won't ask for a trade.

"This is coming out of my mouth: I definitely know I'm going to be playing for the Atlanta Falcons," Freeman said. "This is the team I want to play for. I'm almost 100 percent for sure business will be taken care of because we're all in this thing to win and have success."

Freeman's agent, Kristin Campbell told NFL Network's Michael Silver during Super Bowl week that it was time for the Falcons to pay the runner "like the elite back he is."

Speaking on WZGC-FM in Atlanta on Monday, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said a new deal for Freeman will not happen during this free-agent period. Dimitroff added that any reports noting he would trade Freeman are "ridiculous... we would never trade him."

Freeman is ready to let the situation run its natural course.

"When we talk about contract, we know it's a process," Freeman said. "We're not rushing to get anything done or anything like that. It's something you work hard for and bust your butt for. Of course, anybody wants to get rewarded. But me and my team, we definitely understand it's a process. We understand the cap and the numbers, all the stuff that comes with it.

"On our end, we're just patient. We're just waiting for the right time. God knows my heart. I'm definitely doing this all to take care of my family and help others and even just put my family in a better situation. It's nothing greedy or to be super thirsty like, 'I need this; I need that.' I don't play the game of football for the money. I play the game of football for the love. But fortunately, if you do good in football, you get rewarded very well."

Entering the final year of his deal, Freeman is set to make $1.838 million in 2017. Then Dimitroff will have to decide if he is willing to put his money where his mouth is and pay to keep the 24-year-old playmaking running back in Atlanta.

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