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Falcons Offseason News

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With NFL-high in performance-based pay, Brian Poole gets hit up by Falcons

6:11 PM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Word spread quickly on Wednesday about Atlanta Falcons nickelback Brian Poole getting a nice bonus.

Poole, an undrafted rookie out of Florida last season, led the entire league with $371,973.11 in performance-based pay. He topped Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who received $353,544.47.

Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel playfully nudged Poole via Twitter and got a hilarious response:

Poole certainly earned it. He played in all 16 regular-season games and recorded 58 tackles, eight pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and a sack. He also played in all three postseason games and had 15 tackles, two quarterbacks hits, and a tackle for loss.

The performance-based pay system usually benefits players in their first NFL contracts, or minimum-salaried free-agent signings who become significant contributors.

For those wondering, Poole made $453,500 during his first season, with a base salary of $450,000. Starting free safety Ricardo Allen was second on the team in performance-based pay at $342,712.65.

Here are the top 10 for the Falcons, with rookies being four of the top six:

*Gabriel, looking for a handout from Poole, was 12th at $110,026.45, behind LB Philip Wheeler's 
Brian Poole CB (rookie) $371,783,11.
Ricardo Allen SS $342,712.65
Grady Jarrett DT $189,684.63
Deion Jones LB (rookie) $185,227.93
De'Vondre Campbell LB (rookie) $158,693.36
Austin Hooper TE (rookie) $154,689.15
C.J. Goodwin DB $141,837.48
Devonta Freeman RB $140,543.23
Justin Hardy WR $129,632.93
Robert Alford CB $116,500.47

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Georgia's pro day attracts big turnout from Falcons


3:52 p.m. ET March 15, 2017  


ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The decisions by running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to return for their senior seasons left a thin class of Georgia prospects in the NFL draft.

That didn't keep Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn from attending Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, along with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant general manager Scott Pioli and 10 more staff members.

"Knowing the players who have come through here, although there may not be as many high-profile names this year as in years past, there are some good football players here who will play their way onto rosters," Quinn said.

Quinn was the only NFL head coach at the event held at Georgia's new indoor facility. He said he'll also attend Georgia Tech's pro day on Friday.

According to the NCAA, Georgia ranked sixth in the nation with 41 players on NFL rosters at the start of the 2016 season.

Wide receiver and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie was the only Georgia player invited to the NFL combine held earlier this month in Indianapolis.

Georgia had 15 players participate in the pro day, including offensive linemen Greg Pyke, Brandon Kublanow and Tyler Catalina, defensive backs Maurice Smith and Quincy Mauger and receiver Reggie Davis.

All 32 NFL teams, plus the Canadian Football League's BC Lions, were represented.

"Georgia has got a great history of putting guys in the NFL," said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. "Even undrafted guys have had a lot of success."

Former Georgia center David Andrews, who was undrafted in 2015 but started every game for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in 2016, returned for Wednesday's event.

"There are so many good guys who don't go to the combine," Quinn said. "For those guys, this is their combine. This is our time to find out about them."

McKenzie acknowledged that academic problems contributed to his decision to bypass his senior season. McKenzie said he would have had to win an appeal to continue his career at Georgia if he had not entered the draft.

McKenzie led Georgia with 44 catches for 633 yards and seven touchdowns. He holds the school record with five punt returns for touchdowns.

McKenzie ran the 40 at 4.47 and 4.42 at the NFL combine and did not run again on Wednesday but he participated in the 60-yard shuttle.

Georgia did not release official times from the 40-yard dash. Davis, a former high school track star in Tallahassee, Florida, said he heard his times for his two runs were 4.31 seconds or better.

"I just wanted to come out here and kill the 40 and I feel like I did a good job with that," Davis said, adding he expected his times would help him earn an invitation to a training camp if he is not drafted.


More AP college football:

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Poe agrees to one-year, $8 million deal with Falcons


D. Orlando Ledbetter The Atlanta Journal-Constitution1:01 p.m Thursday, March 16, 2017Atlanta Falcons

ajc | CLEMSON, S.C.


Coveted defensive tackle Dontari Poe, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with the Falcons on Thursday.


Poe had visited with Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Miami in free agency after not being re-signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was slated to visit Oakland.


Poe is a 6-foot-3, 346-pounder from Memphis who was taken 11th overall in 2012 draft.


Poe made $6.1 million last season. The terms were undisclosed.


The Chiefs signed defensive tackle Bennie Logan to a one-year, $6.68 million deal that included a $1 million signing bonus on Tuesday, according to the Kansas City Star.


After not re-signing veteran Jonathan Babnineaux and releasing Tyson Jackson, the Falcons are looking to buttress their defensive tackle position behind Grady Jarrett.


“Poe is an athletic, big guy that can push the pocket,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He will add to our defensive line group and will mix nicely with (Vic) Beasley, Jarrett, (Derrick) Shelby and (Adrian) Clayborn. We are happy to be able to add him to our roster.”


Poe has recorded 202 total tackles in 78 games played – 76 started – while also recording 13 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.


Last season, Poe played in all 16 games, while recording 27 total tackles – 18 solo - with 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed, and one forced fumble.

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Poe aims to slim down for Falcons  


 1h ago
Dontari Poe has a new team and he plans to show off a new physique.

Now property of the Atlanta Falcons on a reported one-year, $8-million contract, Poe spoke to the Atlanta media Friday and shared that he'll shed some pounds for the 2017 season.

"(Coach Dan Quinn) just told me he wanted me to come in and play fast and be aggressive, so around 330 is where I'll play at most of the year," Poe said, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN. "I feel like that will be a comfortable weight for me, too."

Poe was listed at 346 pounds last season and he said on Friday that he currently weighs 340 pounds.

The nose tackle also revealed that the team plans to also use him at the 3-technique. He'll be looked at to clog up the middle in run defense and help free up the team's pass-rushers.

"The best is definitely in front of me with this defense they are running out here," Poe said, Kelsey Conway of writes. "How (Quinn) explained how we will be playing; I feel like the best years are definitely coming up."


Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc.

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Poe ready for tenure in Atlanta after being impressed by defensive unit


By Brandon

macon |  Atlanta 


The Atlanta Falcons’ top addition during the free agency period came from Dontari Poe, who will enter a defensive front that is young and full of talent.

After five seasons in Kansas City, Poe made the move to join the defending NFC champion Falcons.

The Chiefs opted to not give Poe a franchise tag, which would have kept him with the franchise for at least one more season. He said that he understood that the move was a part of business within the league, and it gave him the opportunity to travel nationwide to visit numerous teams.

After trips to Atlanta, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Miami and Oakland, Poe believed he fit best with the Falcons after visits with head coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who drafted the Memphis product while with Kansas City.

Poe signed a one-year, $8 million contract.

“Just the way they play football. It’s about being high energy, aggressive and doing what you do best,” Poe said. “As a D-lineman, that’s the best situation I can be in. (Coach Quinn said) he’s going to let me play ball, and he saw the success I’ve had and thought I can be a dominant player.

“I think it’ll be pretty good, because when I went up there, I saw a family-like atmosphere. Everyone there was cool and laid back. So I think I’ll fit in like a plug, and it should be fun.”

The addition of Poe will force Atlanta to reshuffle its defensive front. Poe is a nose tackle by trade but won’t necessarily unseat Grady Jarrett, who has been slated as the starter as he enters his third season.

Quinn told Poe he could potentially play in the 3-technique at times, and the Falcons’ newest addition is ready to fit where needed.

“It’s very attractive (to play at positions),” Poe said. “He’s going to let us play, so anywhere I can come in and help the team, I’m willing to do it.”

Atlanta’s defense improved during the team’s run to Super Bowl LI. Along with the duo of Clemson products in Jarrett and Vic Beasley, Atlanta also features second-year safety Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant in its defensive backfield. Poe is being added to the Falcons’ pool of talent, and he is “real excited” about those around him.

The defensive line is a fairly inexperienced unit as both players and coaches are gaining exposure in the professional ranks. The Falcons rebooted their defensive coaches after the Super Bowl loss, adding coaches Bryant Young and Jess Simpson, who will enter their first NFL season. On the field, Poe will join Derrick Shelby and Courtney Upshaw as the elder statesmen.

Last season, Atlanta added 36-year-old Dwight Freeney to fill that leadership role. With Freeney being a free agent, the Falcons could turn to Poe for that role due to experience, but he could offer more production than Freeney, who is 10 years older than Poe.

“It is a young defense, so I’m coming in to do whatever I need,” Poe said. “If that’s something I need to do, then it’ll be addressed. I feel like my experience itself is big and that we can go out there and make plays. It’ll be about spreading the wealth, and we can go do what we need to do.”

Listed at 346 pounds, Poe is the largest defensive lineman in the NFL. He said he was told by Atlanta’s staff that the target weight is between 335 and 340 pounds. As his tenure begins, he’s willing to reach any weight desired by the coaches.

Poe collected 27 tackles and 11/2 sacks in 2016 with Kansas City. It was his lowest output of his five-year career, but at only 26, he’s confident in his potential with Atlanta.

“The best is definitely in front of me,” Poe said. “With this defense they’re running out there, the best years are definitely coming up.”

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Atlanta Falcons: Potential Draft Day Targets


by Matthew Brothers7 hours agoFollow @MBrothers15

ATL All Day  


With The NFL Draft coming on April 27th, what can the Atlanta Falcons do to help solidify this roster?

Don’t look now but this years draft is just 40 days away and counting. At pick number 31, Thomas Dimitroff and the Atlanta Falcons are looking for an impact player who can help right away. However, after signing Dontari Poe to a one year/8 million dollar deal to shore up the D-line, where else could Atlanta look?

Cam Robinson, Offensive Line, Alabama.

Surprisingly, it’s looking more and more like Robinson could potentially fall into the Falcons lap at number 31. Robinson is an ultra-talented lineman who’s blocked some of the best rushers playing in the SEC. Scouts Incorporated does not rank Robinson in their top 32 and his stock has fallen mainly because of potential pass protecting issues and average combine numbers. However, his game resume is impressive and I believe he can be an effective guard immediately and improve the Falcon offensive line. I hate reading into combine numbers as game tape in my opinion is better analysis of an overall player. Cam Robinson is a winner and a talented player that the Falcons would be hard-pressed to pass up if still available at number 31.

T.J Watt, Linebacker, Wisconsin.

T.J, the brother of J.J is an intriguing option. He only started one year for the Badgers but he has good upside. T.J is tall and athletic for the linebacker position so a move to edge rusher is possible. With the 350 pound Poe in the middle, Atlanta can afford to be slightly smaller in exchange for speed on the outside. I believe Watt will be available at 31 and could have the upside on defense that the Falcons are looking for.

Jordan Willis, Defensive End, Kansas State.

With the Atlanta Falcons still trying to improve the pass rush, Willis could be an option here. He has the speed to play alongside Vic Beasley and good enough hands to set the edge outside. Jordan Willis is also a safe bet to be available at pick number 31. If the Falcons don’t trade up Willis could be the best pass rusher available in this draft class.


Watching tape on players like Derek Barnett and Taco Charlton is exciting to say the least. Both strike me as immediate impact edge rushers that would likely be gone by 31 at this point. Atlanta is high on both players and Thomas Dimitroff is a GM not afraid to trade up. As far as the O-Line goes this years draft class is very thin so immediate talent could very well be gone by pick 31.

The Falcons are still waiting on whether Chris Chester will continue playing so he is still an option to return. Finally, with the Falcons working out a couple FCS stars in Derek Rivers and Tanoh Kpassagnon, Dan Quinn has plenty of options throughout the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised with any number of names or moves that come out of the Atlanta Falcons 2017 draft class. That’s the fun of the NFL offseason.

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As Falcons roll through pro days and workouts, keep an eye on Derek Rivers and Tanoh Kpassagnon


by Dave Choate Mar 18, 2017, 8:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


The two young defensive linemen could be on the team’s radar in the early rounds.

We don’t know who the Atlanta Falcons will draft. What we do know is that we need to pay attention to those players they deem worthy of being put through private workouts, particularly if those are players who are arriving in the NFL at positions of need.

Nobody nailed more of Atlanta’s 2016 draft picks than Vaughn McClure (though I did pretty well, for a change), so you should pay attention when he’s singling players out, as he’s doing here. More to the point, the Falcons setting up private

Rivers is an intriguing player. He’s a little on the smallish side at under 250 pounds, but he’s also a plus athlete and an aggressive player who has an excellent three cone time, and the length that Quinn loves. Rivers has the upside to be Vic Beasley’s complement and a pass rushing force on the outside, and while it might take him some time, bulking up and coaching to get there, his particular athletic profile and college production makes it clear why the Falcons like him.

Kpassagnon isn’t the same caliber of edge player that Rivers is, and he’s a little raw at the moment. He has the length, strength, and athleticism to be a force at the next level, though, and most projections have him being able to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, a hybrid role that Dan Quinn clearly covets. With Adrian Clayborn and Courtney Upshaw both hitting free agency after this year, Kpassagnon is a potential high-caliber replacement.

The Falcons could make either of these players their first or second round pick, both because they fit and because Atlanta’s shown no fear of going for their preferred player earlier than draft experts are comfortable with. You should remember these names as we wind our way to April.


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

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Falcons' Devonta Freeman determined to shake off Super Bowl 'scar'


Vaughn McClure | 9:12 AM ET


Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman vowed to move beyond his team's historic collapse in last month's Super Bowl loss to New England Patriots. At the same time, Freeman knows the empty feeling might stick for a while.

"That's like a scar you'll see forever," Freeman told ESPN. "You'll always remember that scar. It's about, 'How can I shake back?' In life, you've got to always learn how to shake back and have another elite year."

That the Falcons blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead in a 34-28 loss to the Patriots continues to be a topic of discussion this offseason. Critics still harp on the blunders, including then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan declining to run the ball late and Freeman missing a fourth-quarter block on Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower that led to Matt Ryan being sacked and losing a fumble -- resulting in a momentum-swinging touchdown for the Patriots.

Freeman was asked if there was anything he would take back from the game.

"Nothing," he said. "No play. Even the mistake I made with the missed block. When you look at a football game, you're talking about four quarters. You're talking about the best guys against the best guys on both sides of the ball. Mistakes are going to happen. If you're perfect in the NFL, something is not right. I don't know anybody who's perfect.

"My mistake is a scar. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to get better from that. That's how I look at it."

Freeman said the loss will serve as inspiration heading into next season and beyond. The Falcons hope to make another strong run in 2017 behind reigning MVP Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, Freeman and a rebuilt defense, led by the addition of two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

"If I dwell on the Super Bowl like, 'Oh man, we lost,' already, I lost," Freeman said. "I'm worried about something that I can't control that's over with and that's in the past. It's peanuts to me. You just move on from it. But until you win the Super Bowl, ain't nothing else going to feel better than winning that Super Bowl. I guarantee it. I don't care if I get 1,000 yards, 10 Pro Bowls. If I don't win that Super Bowl, I'm going to always remember that one Super Bowl we lost."

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Good to hear from Freeman. Sounds like he will be a man possessed next year, and really you have to hope most of our players will feel that way. If the offense comes back with a fire, I don't care if they set records as long as we can compete for 4 Quarters with a projected improvement on defense I see a good run again this year and hopefully we can close all games we have control of unlike that last game. Time for another run! 

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Julio Jones 'on schedule' after foot surgery, expects to be ready for camp


Vaughn McClure  


Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones didn’t share any details about his March 6 foot surgery, but Jones did say he expects to be ready for training camp, as the team initially announced.

Jones had a bunion removed on his left foot after the injury nagged him during the season. He wore a walking boot Tuesday while unveiling the name of his new business development -- "Ariston," which is Greek for "the best" -- a complex that will include a residential area, entertainment district, office space and hotels.

"I feel great," Jones told ESPN. "Everything is on schedule, and we’ll be ready to go."

After the surgery, the team announced Jones would be sidelined for four to five months, which would take him right up to the start of training camp in late July. Jones was asked why such a long timetable followed what was referred to as a "minor" procedure.

"I don’t know," Jones said. "They just said that. I really don’t know."

Jones missed two games late last season as a result of the injury but played in all three postseason contests, including the Super Bowl. He finished last season with 83 receptions for 1,409 yards with six touchdowns. In three playoff games, Jones had 19 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns.

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Would Falcons ‘opt out’ of color rush uniforms?


AJC Sports

ajc | 1:12 p.m Friday, March 24, 2017Atlanta Falcons


The Atlanta Falcons are scheduled to play a Thursday night home game in the 2017 season and wear red from head-to-toe as part of the NFL’s “color rush” promotion.


A bylaw presented to the league by the Washington Redskins, however, seeks to give teams the opportunity to “opt out” of wearing the one-color scheme uniforms.


Among the bylaw proposals ... I mean, I'd want to opt out of wearing those yellow things, too.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) March 23, 2017

The Falcons were one of eight teams last season to play in a Thursday night game and not wear color rush uniforms.


The team wore their traditional white road uniforms in Tampa Nov. 3, due to a color conflict as both teams had all-red


Falcons CEO Rich McKay said last year he was excited about the prospect of seeing Matt Ryan in all red.


All proceeds from the sales of Color Rush jerseys goes to the NFL Foundation to fund health, safety and wellness programs for youth.


Falcons red color rush jersey is on sale in the NFL store. NFL


©2017 Cox Media Group

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Breaking down the Atlanta Falcons fullback battle


by Dave Choate Mar 24, 2017, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


It has been a couple of years since we’ve had a legitimate FULLBACK BATTLE on the Atlanta Falcons roster. The last time, it was a relatively unproven Patrick DiMarco fighting off military man and bruising blocker Collin Mooney, before DiMarco went on to be perhaps the best fullback in football over the last two seasons. If the Falcons are exceptionally lucky, they’ll get someone half as good as DiMarco for a song this year.

The question is, who will that player be? With Steve Sarkisian’s lesser emphasis on fullback (we assume, with good reason), it stands to reason that the Falcons could go in a handful of different directions to address their lead blocking void. Here are all of them, as of the moment.

The recently-signed fullback has one of the wilder stories you’ll hear from any fullback in the NFL (yes, I realize how small a crowd I’m selecting from, here). He has a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks, knows Dan Quinn, is essentially deaf and uses hearing aids, and pled guilty in a hit-and-run accident. He also didn’t play an NFL game in 2016.

Coleman can run a little, catch a tiny bit, and blocks reasonably well, but if he’s going to get this gig, it might be his connection to Quinn that does it. Someone else will have to tell me if I’ve missed the mark here, but I simply haven’t seen enough to suggest that he’s more than average overall in run blocking, and he likely needs to be in order to make a compelling case for the gig.

Coleman appears to have technically served his suspension last season, though he didn’t play in any games, so he should be available from the jump for the Falcons.

My pick, despite the seeming odds against him. Vainuku is a big, physical fullback who showed well in extremely limited action last summer with the Houston Texans. He’s young, was a noted special teamer in college, and appears to have some upside as a runner (albeit likely only a short yardage option). That’s versatility.

Young, cheap, and talented seems like a recipe Dan Quinn would like to follow. If he impresses early, I think he’ll get the job.

Plenty of tight ends

It’s possible that the Falcons won’t use a true fullback all that much in the first place. Sark has shown a fondness for tight ends throughout his coaching career and is walking into a place where he has a young, promising starter, a useful veteran backup, and a couple of very young players with upside, not to mention the possibility of adding another in the draft.

In this scenario, it’s not hard to imagine D.J. Tialavea or even Levine Toilolo sometimes lining up in the backfield to block, and it’s kind of fun to imagine Toilolo basically obscuring a team’s view of Devonta Freeman.

Of course, someone might still be the nominal fullback, and that outcome might lead us to...

The long shot on this list. Ward was an obvious Kyle Shanahan favorite, which means he may or may not have a role here, especially with the Falcons sniffing around draft-eligible running backs. His best bet might be to show further improvement as a blocker and stay on as a kind of hybrid RB/FB in a system that only uses a nominal fullback in the first place.

Ultimately, though, the Falcons might be well-served to let Coleman and Vainuku duke it out, keep Ward as the third back, and forego running back in the draft this year. That’s what I’d do, anyways, and we all know my track record running football teams.


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

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2017 NFL Draft: Expert mock drafts expect the Falcons to pick up a lineman


by Dave Choate Mar 26, 2017, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


We’ve said for weeks that the expectation is that the Atlanta Falcons will come out of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with either a guard or a pass rusher. Given that the Falcons didn’t add any high-upside players to address either need in free agency, that’s still the expectation.

Nearly every mock draft you’ll see carries the same expectation. The only deviation I could see at this point would be for a top-flight safety, but I certainly do not expect that.

Here’s a look at our own in-house mock drafts and what experts from SB Nation to ESPN are predicting at the moment.

Robinson’s talent, especially as a run blocker, is too great to let slide out of the first round. In Atlanta, he can push for a starting guard spot and potentially put some pressure on the team’s offensive tackles.

Feeney is a rock-solid G prospect that has ideal traits for a team that runs a zone-blocking scheme (like Atlanta). He’s a smart, technically proficient lineman that is a very good pass protector. Feeney is also a tough, hard-nosed blocker in the run game that possesses enough athleticism to make blocks at the second level and in the screen game.

Feeney is a team captain and four-year starter with a consistent track record. He’s a plug-and-play guy that already has extensive experience playing RG (where he spent the majority of his college career). Atlanta fills their only glaring weakness early on with a player that can be counted on to start immediately.

He has more than one deficiency in his game of course (just like every prospect) but at 6’2 265 lbs with an elite 10-yard split for his size (1.61), a notable 40-yard dash (4.59), and a relentless pursuit, McKinley can be the ‘yin’ to the pass rushing ‘yang’ provided by edge rusher Vic Beasley.


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

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Atlanta Falcons Receiver Mohamed Sanu Honors Home Jersey Roots in Offseason


Garrett Stepien4:27 AM / Originally published onScarlet Report | 2017-03-26T04:27:25-07:00


NEW YORK -- From Rutgers to the NFL, legendary Scarlet Knights wide receiver Mohamed Sanu remains an active football alumnus in the community.

Five years, two franchises and millions of dollars into Mohamed Sanu’s NFL career, he remains just as involved with the Rutgers community.

A local Monmouth Junction (N.J.) South Brunswick product and all-time receptions leader for the Scarlet Knights, Sanu was among Rutgers family Friday in New York at the Rally at the Alley.

The launch of Sanu’s Crew, an annual football camp partnered with the Embrace Kids Foundation based in New Brunswick, is one of his many charity efforts.

“It’s just to give back, give hope, encourage and let them kids know somebody’s going to support them,” Sanu said. “Definitely deal with kids that are fighting cancer, young youth who need somebody to inspire them, give them hope. I try to do my best to give them that. They give me hope and inspire me, so I try to give it back to them.”

As someone who overcame hard times growing up, Sanu understands how far inspiration and giving back can go.

“It’s important because Jersey’s such a small state filled with so many talented people in all aspects of life,” he said. “I just want to give a little bit of inspiration, whether it’s my presence or me saying some words of camaraderie or friendship. To be able to give back to somebody and be able to give that encouragement, listen, you can do anything you set your mind to. Just believe in yourself and chase your dream. So I try to do that as much as I can.”

Sanu remains equally involved with Rutgers football. Nephew and redshirt-freshman wide receiver Mohamed Jabbie is in his second year with the program under coach Chris Ash.

“We talk everyday,” Sanu said of Jabbie. “We just talk about life, and if he has any questions about football, he knows he can call me and he does that. I try to give him every piece of information I know.”

Between Jabbie and former South Brunswick coach Rick Mantz now at Rutgers, Sanu’s ties keep him close with program he starred at.

“It’s cool, I love being a fan of the program I played for,” Sanu said. “I think we’re going to go great this year. I have a feeling that we will, and I’m very excited to see what we do this year. The guys are working hard definitely in the winter programs so far, excited to see how spring ball goes and see what we do this year.”

Sanu posted a career-high 59 receptions in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons. After a loss in Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots and former Rutgers teammate Devin McCourty, Sanu poked at a friendly competition for when the two bowled against each other in the Rally at the Alley.

“That’s my brother, that’s my guy,” Sanu said. “I’ve known Devin for years, and I’m going to talk trash to his behind just like I was in the Super Bowl.”

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NFL rumors: Falcons making progress on Desmond Trufant, Devonta Freeman contracts, GM says


Alex MarvezUpdated at 9:30 p.m. ETUpdated at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sporting News  


PHOENIX — The Falcons are hoping to strike contract extensions with two of their top players while preparing to part ways with a starter from their Super Bowl 51 squad.

Speaking with co-host Vic Carucci and me Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team should have a new deal done with cornerback Desmond Trufant “very soon.” Dimitroff also said the team was “confident that something can get wrapped up” with running back Devonta Freeman later this year.

Conversely, right guard Chris Chester isn’t in Atlanta’s plans for 2017. The Falcons are expecting Chester, 34, to soon announce he is retiring.

Chester started every game the past two seasons for Atlanta after spending the previous four years in Washington. He played his first five NFL seasons with the Ravens and has 143 career starts to his credit. He is an unrestricted free agent.

“If I were betting on it, I’d say it’s time for him to make his move to the next part of his life,” Dimitroff said. “He was a really good asset for us, of course. He helped solidify that (interior line) with (center) Alex Mack and (left guard) Andy Levitre.”

There is no clear-cut replacement for Chester. Potential candidates include 2016 sixth-round draft pick Wes Schweitzer and offseason free-agent signings Hugh Thornton (Colts), Ben Garland (Broncos) and Trevor Robinson (Chargers).

Trufant, who suffered a season-ending pectoral injury midway through last season, is considered Atlanta’s top cornerback. He is set to earn $8 million this season in the final year of the rookie contract signed as a first-round draft pick in 2013.

The Falcons also have Freeman under contract in 2017 for $1.84 million; however, Freeman and his agent Kristin Campbell went public with their expectations for a new deal before Atlanta’s Super Bowl loss to New England.

Dimitroff described his conversations with Campbell as “good” and “candid.”

“We will address this,” Dimitroff said. “When you look at our history, we address these situations going into training camp. I’m throwing that out there as a general timeline. I don’t know when that exactly will be, but I’m confident that something can get wrapped up and he’s going to be part of us for years to come.

“He represents our style of running — urgency, competitive and passionate. It’s fun to watch him as it is (running back) Tevin Coleman.”

Freeman is coming off two straight 1,000-yard, 11-touchdown rushing seasons.

Alex Marvez can be heard from 7-10 p.m. Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.


© 2017 Sporting News Media and its licensors. All rights reserved.

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Atlanta Falcons | 6:35 PM ET


Chester, 34, played 11 seasons with Atlanta, Baltimore, and Washington. The former second-round pick of the Ravens said he plans to expand on his decision to retire at a later time.

Chester started 143 of 169 games he played in during his career. He started 32 regular-season games at right guard for the Falcons the last two seasons, along with three postseason starts during Atlanta's run to Super Bowl LI.

Chester played 8,929 career offensive snaps and averaged 1,034 snaps per season over the last six years. He overcame shoulder surgery between the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

The Falcons now need to fill the void at right guard. Coach Dan Quinn expressed confidence in returning players Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, although neither has started a game in the NFL. Garland, who has played in 24 career games, is listed as a backup center but showed versatility by playing defensive tackle last season. Schweitzer, a sixth-round draft pick last season, was inactive for every game during his rookie year.

The Falcons also added former Indianapolis Colts starting guard Hugh Thornton during free agency one a one-year contract.

The Falcons are doing work on draft prospects, including top guard Forrest Lamp out of Western Kentucky. They hold the 31st overall pick and could target either an offensive lineman or pass-rusher.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff talked about this year's class of guards.

"The guard position, most teams are looking for them and realize the importance of having the ability to fortify their interior to protect the quarterback,'' Dimitroff told ESPN's Mike Reiss. ``We saw first-hand the importance of having a center and two guards that were adept at what they did, and they helped us become a prolific offense. That was very important. I think the group this year, there isn't a big number of guys, but we think there are some guys that can be beneficial to teams and can help shore up the interior. Like any position, they'll need their reps to develop."

The Falcons were the only team with the same five starters on the offensive line all of last season.

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Falcons’ pass-rush project headed to Phase 2


D. Orlando Ledbetter The Atlanta Journal-Constitution12:00 a.m. Saturday, April 1, 2017Atlanta Falcons



The Falcons’ pass rush went from being anemic to having a pulse last season.


Beyond the emergence of linebacker Vic Beasley, the Falcons continued to struggle to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.


To improve the pass rush, the Falcons added defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency and are primed to select a pass-rusher in the NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.





“I’m excited about adding Dontari to the defensive front,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We are definitely getting closer to the vision that we would like to play as a team, one that is lit up by competitiveness and toughness.”


Poe, a two-time Pro Bowler, has only 13 sacks over 78 NFL games. He had a career-high six sacks in 2014.


The Falcons believe that Poe and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who had three sacks in the Super Bowl, in the middle of the defense can add to the pass rush.


“Both are real-active inside players,” Quinn said. “When you play a four-man front, you want to make sure that you can affect the quarterback in the pass game with your rush and be able to drop and play four underneath, or however you want to play your coverages, without having to devout an extra player to do that.”


Quinn had to blitz and send more than four players too often last season. He’d prefer to rush with only four players.


“That allows you the flexibility to do things,” Quinn said. “We are really pumped about where Grady Jarrett is going. We think the quickness and the movement that he has (is elite). We are equally as pumped about Dontari being on board and to see all of the things he can bring.”


Poe was asked mostly to anchor at nose guard in Kansas City’s 3-4 defense. He played some at defensive end, but wasn’t asked to rush the passer much.


After reviewing three seasons of film on Poe, the Falcons believe he can play in their attacking front.


“He’s played terrifically as a nose tackle in a 3-4 front during his time at Kansas City,” Quinn said. “I evaluated him on the plays he was really getting up field. I tried to inter-cut that into the Atlanta clips to show how he would play in our system.”


Some contend that there has been a dip in Poe’s play since he had back surgery in August 2015 to fix a herniated disc in his back. The Falcons did their due diligence on Poe’s injury history.


“When the medical side was comfortable on their end, that allowed us to go full steam ahead,” Quinn said.


The Falcons registered their 34 sacks over 655 pass attempts last season. They had a sack per 4.9 pass attempt, which ranked 27th in the league. The Falcons had 19 sacks over 561 pass attempts in 2015. They had a sack per 3.3 pass attempt, which ranked last (32nd) in the league.


In 2016, when you count the hurries and quarterback hits, the Falcons affected the quarterback on 255.5 of 655 pass attempts (39 percent). Beasley led the team with 16.5 hits and 33.5 hurries. With his sacks, he affected the quarterback on 65.5 plays.


In 2015, the Falcons had 19 sacks, 70 hurries and 75 hits (164 plays) on 561 pass attempts for (29.2 percent).


The 34 sacks were the post by a Falcons team since the 37 in 2007.


In search for more help, Quinn, a former defensive line coach, went to Philadelphia to work out players at Temple and Villanova and then took a flight to Youngstown, Ohio, to work out Youngstown State standout Derek Rivers on March 16. He worked out Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagon and Temple’s Hasson Reddick while in Philadelphia.


Reddick projects as an outside linebacker and as a first-round pick by


Rivers projects as a defensive end and a second- or third-round pick, and Kpassagon projects as a defensive end and a third- or fourth-round pick.


“We had a good session with those guys,” Quinn said.


The draft is considered deep in pass-rushing talent. If the Falcons move in another direction with their first-round pick, the 31st overall, they’ll have options later in the draft.


“So just for instance, say they’re looking in the second or third round for an edge guy,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I would tell you that DeMarcus Walker from Florida State is intriguing, and he’s going to go in the second or third round. Tarell Basham from Ohio University, he’s a really good football player, and he can play for somebody this year as a rookie.”


The Falcons’ defense finished ranked 25th overall (371.2 yards per game), 17th against the run (104.5 yards) and 27th against the pass (266.7 yards).


An improved pass rush will help the unit. The defense featured four rookies, three second-year players and free safety Ricardo Allen, who was in his second year at that position, last season.


“Can now, (strong safety) Keanu (Neal) bring somebody else with him who tries to get the ball out,” Quinn said. “The communication piece that (middle linebacker) Deon (Jones) took over, he’s in a space where he wants to go for it in the biggest way and not be complacent.


“When I hear those comments from him and how hard he’s working now, that lights me up to know that he, by the way he’s working, he’s going to bring somebody else with him.”


Quinn credited linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel with the development of the young defense last season. They worked hard to point out their mistakes.


“Not only are there some good players in that group, but I think there are some emerging leaders that will come out of that group,” Quinn said.


The youth of the unit is viewed as a plus.


“We have 63 of 64 guys now (under contract), and 32 of them are going into year two to four,” Quinn said. “That fires (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and I up that we are going to try to (bring) them through and try to develop them together.”


The Falcons start their offseason strength-and-conditioning program April 17. However, they are set to hold a players-only camp in Florida before they report.


While the Falcons’ offense led the way to the NFC title last season, the team’s brain trust knows that the defense has major room for improvement.


“We are definitely closer to the vision that I’d like to be at,” Quinn said. “I say that because I feel the physicality and the turnovers that we’re (creating). Those two pieces are coming alive. I feel the speed. I feel the communication piece.”



Player; Sacks; Hits; Hurries; Total

Vic Beasley; 15.5; 16.5; 33.5; 65.5

Adrian Clayborn; 4.5; 15.5; 17; 37

Dwight Freeney; 3; 9.5; 20; 32.5

Grady Jarrett; 3; 9.5; 17; 29.5

Brooks Reed; 2; 7.5; 12.5; 22

Ra’Shede Hageman; 2; 4; 4.5; 10.5

Courtney Upshaw; 1; 3; 6; 10

Jonathan Babineaux; 0; 1; 7.5; 8.5

Brian Poole; 1; 3; 2.5; 6.5

Derrick Shelby; 0; 3; 3.5; 6.5

Tyson Jackson; 0; 1.5; 4.5; 6

Desmond Trufant; 2; 2; 0; 4

Deion Jones; 0; 3.5; 3.5

Philip Wheeler; 0; 2; 1; 3

De’Vondre Campbell; 0; 0; 2; 2

Paul Worrilow; 0.5; 1; 1.5

Kemal Ishmael; 0; 0; 1; 1

Cliff Matthews; 0; 0; 1; 1

LaRoy Reynolds; 0; 0; .5; .5

Team; 34; 81.5; 135.5; 255.5


©2017 Cox Media Group

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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

The Falcons will begin their offseason workout program on April 17, as scheduled. They will hold organized team activities May 30, June 1-2, June 5-6, June 8-9. Mandatory minicamp is June 13-15.


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Wolverines invade Falcons in dueling mock draft

5:17 PM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

If ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are accurate, then the Atlanta Falcons just might end up drafting a Michigan Wolverines product this year.

Kiper and McShay put together a dueling, two-round mock draft that is sure to spark conversation. The project meant four picks for the Falcons -- two by each analysts -- with the 31st and 63rd overall selections.

Three of the four picks were from Michigan. McShay has the Falcons selecting Wolverines safety Jabrill Peppers (5-11, 213) in the first round and teammate Chris Wormley (6-5, 298), a defensive tackle, in the second. Kiper has the Falcons going with Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton (6-6, 277) in the first round injured Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the second.

The Falcons' most pressing needs are at offensive guard and edge-rusher, so it seems unlikely they'll target a defensive back in the first two rounds. In a perfect world, no doubt the Falcons would love to see top offensive line prospect Forrest Lamp fall to them at No. 31. Lamp has a workout scheduled with the Falcons next week. Then in the second round, they could target a pass-rusher such as Youngtown State's Derek Rivers, who already worked out for the Falcons and has tremendous upside.

But anything could change from now until draft day. Plus, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff talks annually about being open-minded about trade scenarios.

Kiper has stayed true to Charlton going to the Falcons for weeks. Kiper cited Charlton's long arms and active hands as reason why he would be the ideal player to pair with reigning NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr.

The Falcons sent three scouts to Michigan's pro day, according to a school official. It's unclear what type of interest the Falcons have in Charlton, if any.

Wolverines defensive line coach Greg Mattison naturally spoke highly of his protege.

"The first thing, his character is tremendous," Mattison said of Charlton. "He's a really exceptional athlete. He was a very, very good basketball player coming out of high school. He had all the height. We saw the athleticism when we recruited him.

"He really didn't have the strength in his early years. You could just see it every year; him getting stronger. He has very long arms and has just improved his strength. He did 25 reps with those long arms. That tells you the amount of strength that he has. He has what every good pass-rusher has and that's a great get-off. And he can run."As for Peppers, no doubt he has the type of position versatility that Falcons coach Dan Quinn loves. But again, it just seems unlikely for the Falcons to go that route after drafting strong safety Keanu Neal in the first round last year, then planning to experiment with nickel back Brian Poole at free safety behind Ricardo Allen heading into the 2017 season.

Wormley is talented, but the Falcons signed Dontari Poe in free agency to play on the defensive interior along with Grady Jarrett, with newcomer Jack Crawford also capable of playing inside and Derrick Shelby coming back from an Achilles tear.

As for the projection of Washington's Jones, he got injured at his pro day and had surgery. The Falcons probably won't use a higher pick on a guy coming off a major injury.

Again, the picks made by Kiper and McShay make for good conversation and debate.

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NFL Draft: Falcons host Air Force's Ryan Watson, an Atlanta native


Kristian DyerUpdated at 5:16 p.m. ETUpdated at 5:16 p.m. ET

Sporting News  


An under-the-radar prospect, Ryan Watson continues to impress NFL teams. The linebacker out of Air Force had another private workout with an NFL team this week.

Watson worked out with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday, a source tells Sporting News. Reports also linked Watson to a workout with the Green Bay Packers earlier in the week.

Watson, who has the potential to line up as a defensive end in passing situations, had a productive senior season at Air Force, including a game against Utah State in which he had three sacks.

An All-Mountain West selection, Watson's upside is intriguing. He ran a 4.74 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, a respectable number, but his production is what has teams going so far as to bring him in for private workouts.

Watson led the Mountain West in both sacks per game and tackles for loss.

He's from Conyers, Ga., which is about 20 miles east of Atlanta.


© 2017 Sporting News Media and its licensors. All rights reserved.

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Falcons' Matt Ryan to host another Florida workout for teammates


Vaughn McClure | 3:33 PM ET


Last year, Matt Ryan organized and paid for 27 of his teammates to meet in South Florida for unscheduled practices, and the sessions certainly helped build team unity.

The MVP Ryan and his teammates will again meet in South Florida this week for a few days of workouts. Those sessions are scheduled to take place at the same venue: St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

During local radio spot, Matt Ryan says entire Falcons team is meeting for workouts in South Florida this week, b4 formal workouts in ATL.

— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) April 10, 2017

Ryan, who is hosting a golf tournament in Atlanta Monday, will fly out immediately after the tourney. The "passing camp" is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

"It's an opportunity for all of us to get together and it's more than just the skill position players," Ryan said Monday on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. "We really talked about the brotherhood a lot last year and that became something that the whole city I think bought into. But that was real in the locker room. I believe in it, [Falcons coach] Dan [Quinn] is a huge believer in it and has sent that message to all of us that the tighter we can get, the closer we can become, the harder we'll play for one another, the harder we'll work for one another.

"For us, this is an opportunity for us to get together before we get started, no coaches, air any grievances that you have about last year. Get all that stuff out, get it out of your system, get out on the field to get working towards next year. I think everybody is looking forward to it."

Ryan previously said he wanted to make the event an annual occurrence. Last year's sessions specifically helped him get to know new teammate Mohamed Sanu, who was signed to be the team's No. 2 receiver.

"I think that's huge," Ryan said last April about building chemistry through the camp. "When teams have been together a long time, there is that [chemistry]. But when you've got a lot of turnover and a lot of new people, I think you have to really work hard to try and get that. And I think the faster we can get really close, the better off we'll be."

Star wide receiver Julio Jones won't be able to participate in the camp as he recovers from surgery on his left foot. Cornerback Desmond Trufant, who just agreed to a five-year, $69 million contract extension, seems unlikely to participate, considering he won't be cleared to participate in organized team activities coming off pectoral surgery. Both Jones and Trufant are expected to be ready for training camp.

The Falcons begin their offseason workout program next Monday. OTAs begin on May 30, while mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 13-15.

Ryan and his teammates are trying to avoid a Super Bowl hangover after blowing a 28-3 lead in a 34-28 overtime loss to New England in Super Bowl LI. Getting together on their own time is a good start for the 2017 season.

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Julio Jones, recovering from foot surgery, attends workout with Falcons teammates


Alex MarvezUpdated at 4:39 p.m. ETUpdated at 4:39 p.m. ET

Sporting News  


CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Foot surgery didn’t keep Julio Jones from attending "Camp Brotherhood" with his Atlanta Falcons teammates.

Although the star wide receiver was still recovering from foot surgery, Jones was in attendance Wednesday at the players-only workouts being orchestrated by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Jones watched from the sidelines during the hour-long session held at the University of Miami. Wearing socks and flip-flops, Jones showed no signs of a limp and didn’t need crutches or a protective walking boot after undergoing surgery in early March.

Jones missed two late-season games in December because of a toe injury. FOX Sports insider Jay Glazer reported that Jones also was dealing with a mid-foot ailment that limited his postseason practice time.

Jones still caught 19 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns in three postseason games. He finished the regular season with an NFC-high 1,409 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 83 receptions.

Jones was not expected to participate in Atlanta’s offseason workout program, which begins Monday at Falcons headquarters, but he should be ready for the team’s regular-season opener in September.

Alex Marvez can be heard from 7 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET Wednesday and Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.


© 2017 Sporting News Media and its licensors. All rights reserved.

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Roddy White returning to football as a coach  


Former UAB and Atlanta Falcons star Roddy White is returning to football, but not as a player.

On Wednesday afternoon, Johns Creek High School announced via Twitter that White had joined the Gladiators' coaching staff.

White has been out of football since March 2, 2016, when the Falcons released him with two years remaining on his contract.

White joined Atlanta from UAB as the 27th choice in the 2005 NFL Draft. He had 808 receptions for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns in his NFL career - all franchise records for the Falcons.

White was selected for the Pro Bowl annually from 2008 through 2011 and made the NFL All-Pro team in 2010, when he led the league with a career-high 115 receptions.

When he left the game, White ranked 33rd in receptions, 35th in receiving yards and 63rd in receiving TDs in NFL history.

Johns Creek High School is northeast of Atlanta in Johns Creek, Georgia. It is a Class AAAAAA member of the Georgia High School Association.

The Gladiators hired a new head coach, Mark Helmerich, in February.



Copyright © 2017 by STATS LLC.All rights reserved.

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NFL announces date of Atlanta Super Bowl


Jeff Vinton, WMAZThu, 13 Apr 2017 21:06:51 GMTJeff Vinton, WMAZThu, 13 Apr 2017 21:06:51 GMT  


The NFL announced the date of Super Bowl LIII, which will be played in the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, today.

The game will be played on February 3, 2019.

The city of Atlanta has not played host to the NFL championship game since January 30, 2000 when Kurt Warner led the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl XXXIV title over the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome. St. Louis won the game 23-16 after Kevin Dyson came one yard short of tying the game as time expired.

The city also hosted Super Bowl XXVIII, where the Dallas Cowboys won the second of their back-to-back Super Bowls over the Buffalo Bills, 30-13, in 1994. 

The Super Bowl LIII will be the second of three Super Bowls in four years to be played in new stadiums. Minnesota's new U.S. Bank Stadium will host Super Bowl LII next year and the Los Angeles Rams' new stadium in Inglewood, Calif., will host Super Bowl LV in 2021.

Only time will tell if the Atlanta Falcons will become the first team to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium.


© WMAZ-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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