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Thomas Dimitroff Q&A: What Atlanta’s GM looks for in scouting offensive linemen

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https://theathletic.com/780990/2019/01/22/thomas-dimitroff-qa-what-atlantas-gm-looks-for-in-scouting-offensive-linemen/

 

MOBILE, Ala. — It was a sight Thomas Dimitroff was happy to see. 

When the South team, coached by the San Francisco 49ers’ staff, lined up for one-on-one drills in the trenches, the offensive and defensive linemen were engaging more physically with one another than in years past. That actually has been a common complaint from front office personnel, that these interior drills at the Senior Bowl, haven’t been as physical as they need to be.

That wasn’t the case during the first practice of the week, which took place Tuesday. Offensive linemen Tytus Howard (Alabama State) and Dru Samia (Oklahoma) stonewalled their men repeatedly, with Howard putting one defender on the ground. Defensive linemen Jonathan Ledbetter (Georgia), Montez Sweat (Mississippi State) and Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech) showed speed and aggression off the edge.

The sheer sight of this was great for a general manager like Dimitroff, who will be tasked with filling holes and adding depth to both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason — with perhaps an emphasis being on the offensive line.

A lot needs to play out before the team’s picture becomes clearer in terms of what position it might target in the first round of the NFL draft. The Falcons always could address these positions in free agency and feel good about taking another position earlier instead. In between the South and North teams’ practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Dimitroff took a few minutes to speak with The Athletic about what he is looking for when scouting offensive linemen as the Falcons’ unit could see position battles at left guard, right guard and right tackle this offseason.

He also addressed Grady Jarrett’s upcoming contract extension and where things stand with Vic Beasley and the $12.8 million fifth-year option Atlanta picked up last year.

With a new offensive coordinator, does that change how you evaluate offensive linemen? Obviously, that’s a position group a lot of people are interested in right now.

Offensive line is going to be important for us. We will continue to look at it and build. I want to be very clear to everyone. We have a lot of focus on that position. We not only have myself and Dan Quinn involved, we have our personnel directors and assistant general manager and three O-line coaches (looking at it). We have a lot of focus on it. We know how important it is just like every team in the NFL does. It’s a different situation now with a lot of players coming out (compared to) the way that they used to. Work rules are different. There’s just a lot of things you have to be really honed in on to make sure that you have the right fits.

To your question, when you bring a new offensive coordinator in, you’re mindful of the type of nuances to the offensive system. That said, we’re going to be very much consistent. We’ll continue, as Dan mentioned, to not only be on the outside zone scheme, but we’ll be moving inside, as well. That’s important for us as it gives us an opportunity to consider more of a pool of players on the offensive line than strictly being set outside or inside.

On top of that, what are you looking for in this week of scouting from the few days you’ll be here?

To get an opportunity to see these guys move around against the top-notch talent in the college ranks. That’s a big thing for us. Of course, you don’t get a chance to see physical drills as much — although the O-line and D-line drills (Tuesday) were fantastic. Kudos to (49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan and the way they approached it. Every year we come in here and complain to the staffs about wanting more physicality. They did a great job; they ran really good O-line and D-line drills, which is good for a lot of us who are maybe looking for those positions.

We get to an opportunity to see these guys move around. It’s good to see them physically because during the season some schools you don’t get to. You get an opportunity to see not only the big-time schools against the big-time schools, but you also get a chance to see some of the smaller schools against some of the top-notch schools out there and see how they stack up. 

Was there anything that stood out in those one-one-drills up front?

Yeah, again, without getting into specifics about players …

Which is what I wanted you to do …

There was some physicality there. And quite honestly, there were a couple of players out there that when you combine their athleticism, and if you’ve done enough research, you can know who those guys are, they were also showing some physicality. When you are deemed an athletic offensive lineman, usually you come here, and you have to show you have physicality to you, as well, and you’re not just considered as finesse. I thought a couple of guys did that.

Switching gears a little bit to some contract stuff. With Grady, I believe March 5 is the tag deadline. If you don’t have a deal with him by then, is that a possibility or consideration to franchise or transition tag him?

I think with the way it’s set up in the league, you always look at that if you can’t get something done. But our focus is to see where we’re going with this negotiation. Again, he’s a very important part. He is our priority right now. We tabled it, as you know, in the fall, and we focused on the season. Of course, he did a very good job. We love what he does for us, not only on the field but off the field.

We’re encouraged we’re going to get something done.

On Vic Beasley, you picked up his option last year. What’s the status with that, and is (playing under the option) the plan? Or are you still working through that to figure out what you want to do with him?

We’re in the spot right now of looking at the entire team. When the Super Bowl is over, Dan and I will spend a ton of time on it. We’ve already spent a ton of time together talking about it and looking at how things will be pieced together, being creative with our cap, of course. Vic’s a guy we’re continuing to focus on. We want him to be here.

We want him to continue to thrive and continue to learn under Dan’s tutelage as a defensive coordinator/head coach and how important that’s going to be. Dan has a really good working relationship with Vic, and that’s important for us.

Back to the players you’re looking at, once free agency begins, how much of that will impact what happens in the draft?

It impacts it a lot. It impacts the idea of where you can spend your money and where you can get good values in free agency and where you know guys have already proven themselves. That’s a big thing coming into a season. And then go into the draft and focus on some of the guys you know are going to be developing. Free agency, to me, is a really important part. It may not be a situation where you’re picking up three, five or seven free agents. But one or two can be a big difference in how you approach the draft.

One thing that’s been sticking with me is cornerback. I know with you guys, offensive line and defensive line have been a big emphasis internally and externally. But where do you stand on cornerback with what you want for the future?

We feel we have a good group of corners. We had some play that was good this year, and we also had some inconsistent play. We have a great deal of faith in the number of players we have in that group. We’re going to continue to grow and continue to refine.

That said, I don’t think you can ever have enough corners who are not only ready to step up right away but create a legitimate amount of depth. You know how it is over the years. Before you know it, you’re tapping into the fourth corner on your roster. I think you have to be very detailed and focused on that. It will be another important position to continue to look at. Sometimes you can pick a later-round player who can be very beneficial to an organization. I do believe that. 

There’s one guy who stands out to me, but I doubt you’ll want to comment specifically on him — (I revealed to Dimitroff after the fact it was Delaware’s Nasir Adderley) — but how much does versatility play into that? Obviously, a guy like Damontae Kazee played corner in college and then moved to safety and can play nickel. How much of that goes into the process when you’re looking at a DB?

Versatility is big. Versatility is big at a lot of secondary positions. But to play inside and outside is important. It’s a big thing when we’re talking about it. Every scout is pressed to make their categorical comment on whether a guy can be an outside/inside guy or an inside/outside guy.

We make sure we’re very detailed on prioritizing what their abilities are and trying to determine whether the guy ideally is inside or outside. To have versatility that way, not only to play the corner position but play safety if need be; yes, that is an important part.

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Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

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26 minutes ago, Geneaut said:

Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

Or we want to have 2 decent pass rushers on the roster............... at least.

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36 minutes ago, Geneaut said:

Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

They've been said this about Beasley. Before the Takk situation.

I said this in other threads but DQ gives off a strong impression that he can get the best out of Beasley based on his skillset. Unless Beasley and his agent get outlandish with what they want I definitely see Beasley on the roster

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49 minutes ago, Geneaut said:

Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

It’s probably a legit concern if nothing more than Takk has not broken through the numbers of a beast pass rusher. Couple that with his mental health incident, re-signing Vic and possibly Irvin makes sense. 

I also could see us drafting an edge early 

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2 minutes ago, MSalmon said:

It’s probably a legit concern if nothing more than Takk has not broken through the numbers of a beast pass rusher. Couple that with his mental health incident, re-signing Vic and possibly Irvin makes sense. 

I also could see us drafting an edge early 

I'm OK OL, DT, EDGE in some order as our first 3 picks. Double dip again in the mids with our extra comp picks with maybe a LB or CB thrown in if we see some talent there.

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1 minute ago, Geneaut said:

I'm OK OL, DT, EDGE in some order as our first 3 picks. Double dip again in the mids with our extra comp picks with maybe a LB or CB thrown in if we see some talent there.

Me too. I’ll add cb in first if an absolute stud like baker or possibly greedy is there. Alford is expensive 

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1 hour ago, Geneaut said:

Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

Vic at $13MM should not happen. There is a path to keep Vic on the roster at a much lower cap hit. He's not a terrible player. He's just not what he was in 2016. 

I think the same can be said for Alford. His cap hit is ridiculously high, but corners are hard to find. Restructure his deal and save some cap and you can keep your deep CB corps.

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2 minutes ago, vel said:

Vic at $13MM should not happen. There is a path to keep Vic on the roster at a much lower cap hit. He's not a terrible player. He's just not what he was in 2016. 

I think the same can be said for Alford. His cap hit is ridiculously high, but corners are hard to find. Restructure his deal and save some cap and you can keep your deep CB corps.

If DQ thinks he can get something from Vic I'm open to trying if the $$$ is right. 

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For people who want to keep Beasley and Alford, even at reduced salary, ask yourself what Bill Belichick would do with them if he were Falcons coach. 

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I get the impression that they don't want to give up on Vic but I also get the feeling that they don't want to bring him back at 13M - which they shouldnt IMO.

Vic seems to be at his best when he playing about half the defensive snaps as a situational PR which wouldn't justify his cap hit for next season.

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1 hour ago, Geneaut said:

Wow. If you take him at his word, which we probably shouldn't, it looks like Vic is going to be on the roster next season. The Takk situation may have them worried.

 Last year Vic  was out of shape, and did not really care if he played well, or if the team won, or lost..   Vic becoming more productive after his snaps were reduced was a bunch of BS.   There are two times, every game, when a player is as fresh as he can be:   at the start of games and after halftime, and yet Beasley was a complete non-factor....

….until reports began to surface questioning whether Beasley was worth 12.3 million next year.   Only then did Beasley start playing like the player the Falcons thought he was.  I don't see a problem with a player being primarily motivated by money?   I DO see a problem with having a player who gets his money, then tanks.  Remember Ray Edwards?  Albert Haynesworth? Jamarcus Russell?

Before the Falcons pay Beasley, they need to know he is gonna play like he is worth that 12.3 million.   Or get rid of him and make better use of that money.  It's going to be a judgement call, one that might cost someone their job if they get it wrong.

Edited by egoprime II
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9 minutes ago, Summerhill said:

For people who want to keep Beasley and Alford, even at reduced salary, ask yourself what Bill Belichick would do with them if he were Falcons coach. 

He'd find a way to re-sign Vic at around $5-6MM per like he did Van Noy and Clayborn. He'd also find a way to pay his QB in a roundabout way to keep his cap hits low but I guess that isn't apart of this equation huh?

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11 minutes ago, vel said:

He'd find a way to re-sign Vic at around $5-6MM per like he did Van Noy and Clayborn. He'd also find a way to pay his QB in a roundabout way to keep his cap hits low but I guess that isn't apart of this equation huh?

I disagree. Belichick never asked Clayborn nor Van Noy to take pay cuts based on what the Patriots had previously been paying them. 

Historically, when a Patriots player is no longer producing relative to their Patriots salary or what another team would pay them, they don't get pay cuts. They're gone. 

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12 minutes ago, Summerhill said:

I disagree. Belichick never asked Clayborn nor Van Noy to take pay cuts based on what the Patriots had previously been paying them. 

Historically, when a Patriots player is no longer producing relative to their Patriots salary or what another team would pay them, they don't get pay cuts. They're gone. 

Oh I agree. If Vic doesn't want that, he can go. I don't think Belichick would have exercised the 5th year option to create this issue. Look at Danny Shelton. They aren't above going after guys who underperformed on other teams. Shelton and Van Noy are prime examples. He'd just have a very firm price for what he'd pay and nothing more. 

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$13 mil is too much for Beasley. Can cut and resign him for $5-$6 mil, but ain’t no way in **** he deserves over $10 mil. Can find better use for that money by getting a FA OG or RT this year or by just saving it for the players on our team who really deserve it next year (Deebo, Campbell, Neal, Hooper).

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To me the question isn't "is Vic worth $13 million" or "can we extend and restructure?"  If we can extend and restructure it's a no brainer.

The real question is IF Vic is at $13 million or bust, are we better off paying him the $13 million or another free agent?  And that depends a lot on who is out there in FA.  I think letting him walk and getting a high draft pick is a great long-term approach, but I don't think it's really in the cards for a team that should be winning now.  If we're paying the $13 million to somebody, are the other available somebodies better than Vic Beasley.  If so, he walks and we sign them instead.

Best approach by far is extend and restructure Vic and keep him around.

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1 hour ago, Summerhill said:

For people who want to keep Beasley and Alford, even at reduced salary, ask yourself what Bill Belichick would do with them if he were Falcons coach. 

Or save some time and just ask me.

In the voice of the great comedian Robin Harris (RIP), "gotta go, gotta go".

Billy Check would probably trade him a la Chandler Jones. 

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47 minutes ago, vel said:

He'd find a way to re-sign Vic at around $5-6MM per like he did Van Noy and Clayborn. He'd also find a way to pay his QB in a roundabout way to keep his cap hits low but I guess that isn't apart of this equation huh?

To be fair, Bill kicked guys like Chandler Jones to the curb rather quickly. 

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