Falcons Rumors

Matt Ryan Thinks Kaepernick Is Worthy Of Roster Spot

  • Count Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan among those who believe Colin Kaepernick should have a shot to return to the NFL. Speaking to reporters, Ryan said Kaepernick, who was essentially blackballed for protesting police brutality in 2016, should have “every opportunity” to join an NFL roster this year (Twitter link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). The status of the 32-year-old Kaepernick has re-entered the news following the killing of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests against police violence and systemic racism.

Todd Gurley Passes Falcons Physical

Two months after agreeing to join the Falcons, Todd Gurley has finally taken and passed his team physical (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). At long last, everything is signed, sealed, and delivered, silencing any whispers about his condition.

[RELATED: Falcons Gain ~$11MM In Cap Room]

Up until this week, Gurley wasn’t able to fly to Atlanta due to the pandemic. That’s been the case for many NFL players – especially free agents changing teams – but some wondered if Gurley’s injured knee was far from football-ready. In mid-May, even Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said he wasn’t quite sure what he going on.

The main question that no one seems to know is, ‘What’s his health status?,Koetter said.

All along, those close to Gurley insisted that his recovery was on track. Last year, the knee injury clearly hampered the two-time All-Pro. In 2019, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and just 6.7 yards per reception. Prior to that, he managed 40 all-purpose touchdowns between ’17 and ’18 while averaging 4.8 yards per tote.

If Gurley flunked his physical, the Falcons would have had an opportunity to escape the one-year, $11MM deal, but they also would have had to restart their running back search. Fortunately, it seems that everything has worked out. The Falcons have Gurley to replace Devonta Freeman, and they’ll only have $6MM of Gurley’s salary on the books thanks to the Rams’ obligation, plus offset pay.

Gurley, a University of Georgia product, will be backed in Atlanta by Ito Smith and Brian Hill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets, Falcons, Rams, Bears To Gain Cap Room Via Post-June 1 Cuts

The Bears, Falcons, Jets, and Rams will gain additional cap space starting Tuesday, as Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes. The extra flexibility comes from the following releases that have been designated as post-June 1 cuts: 

Players released after June 1 can have their remaining cap charge spread out across two seasons, rather than one. These four players were released earlier this year, but designated as post-June 1 cuts to smooth out the dead money.

For these teams, a chunk of this money will go towards funding the incoming rookie class. However, there will still be some room left over for summer upgrades, thanks to the top-51 rule. In the case of the Falcons, they’ll have about $8.25MM to spend, as Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic notes.

The additional space could jumpstart talks for June’s best remaining free agents, a group that includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, cornerback Logan Ryan, and guard Larry Warford. The Jets probably won’t go for Clowney, but they’ve shown serious interest in Ryan and Warford would make some sense for them if they want to upgrade over Brian Winters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons To Gain ~$11MM Of Cap Room

The Falcons released longtime CB Desmond Trufant in March, and as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, Trufant was designated as a post-June 1 cut. As such, Atlanta will be able to spread out his dead money charge over the course of the 2020 and 2021 seasons and will gain $10.75MM of cap room when the calendar flips to June on Monday.

The club presently has just $252K of cap space, so the relief is much-needed. As Ledbetter observes, the Falcons will use a good chunk of their newfound space to bring their six-man draft class under contract (at the moment, the team has not signed any of its 2020 draftees). That will leave Atlanta with roughly $7MM of room thanks to the Rule of 51, and GM Thomas Dimitroff likes to keep about $2MM on hand throughout the course of the season in case of emergency.

So Dimitroff will have $5MM to play with should any of the remaining crop of veteran free agents appeal to him. There are a few potentially viable corners on the market, and Atlanta could stand to add an experienced player to complement the youth at that position. The Falcons selected CB A.J. Terrell in the first round of this year’s draft, and he is currently slated to line up opposite third-year pro Isaiah Oliver. Rising sophomore Kendall Sheffield had a solid rookie campaign in the slot and will likely reprise that role in 2020.

Players like Logan Ryan — if his price tag comes down — Trumaine Johnson, and Dre Kirkpatrick could be targets for Atlanta. A situational pass rusher like Clay Matthews may also be in the mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Sign LB Deone Bucannon

The Falcons have signed free agent linebacker Deone Bucannon, the club announced today.

Bucannon, 27, will return to the NFC South after spending part of his 2019 season with the Buccaneers. The former first-round pick signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal with Tampa Bay last offeason, but only appeared in five games before being cut. Bucannon’s play contributed to his release, but the Bucs also enhanced their compensatory pick selections by parting ways with the veteran linebacker.

After leaving the Buccaneers, Bucannon latched on with the Giants. He appeared in nine games down the stretch, and although he played on just eight defensive snaps, he did contribute on special teams (78 snaps). All told, Bucannon has made 57 career starts since being selected 27th overall by the Cardinals in the 2014 draft.

Atlanta lost linebacker De’Vondre Campbell in free agency, leaving Foyesade Oluokun as the most likely option to start next to Deion Jones. Bucannon, with his experience and ability to play multiple roles, should compete with Oluokun for playing time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons To Reopen Facilities

The Falcons will reopen their facilities on Tuesday, per a club announcement. Many more teams are expected to follow suit after Roger Goodell gave the greenlight on Saturday. 

[RELATED: NFL To Allow Teams To Reopen Facilities]

We won’t see all 32 teams reopen their facilities on Tuesday, of course, but more than two-thirds of the league will at least have the option. The clubs that do reopen will have to follow the league’s guidelines, and they won’t have coaches or players in attendance. Front office executives and medical personnel can be in the building, but they’ll be capped 50% of staff and no more than 75 total employees.

Our goal is to reopen facilities safely and in a way that is consistent with medical and public health guidance, as reflected in the protocols; is permitted by current government regulations; and respects principles of competitive equity,” the commissioner wrote in the memo.

After that, the league will play things by ear and continue to ease the restrictions, phase-by-phase.

This first phase of reopening is an important step in demonstrating our ability to operate safely and effectively, even in the current environment,” Goodell wrote. “After we implement this first phase, and as more states and localities enact policies that allow more club facilities to reopen, I expect that additional staff, likely including coaching staff, will be allowed to return to club facilities in a relatively short time.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Todd Gurley Still Hasn’t Taken His Falcons Physical

In March, the Falcons agreed to sign Todd Gurley to a one-year deal. Weeks later, in early April, they officially the agreement, though Gurley had yet to actually sign his deal or take his physical. We’re now midway through May and Gurley still hasn’t taken a physical for Atlanta, according to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). 

[RELATED:Falcons To Consider Competition For Younghoe Koo]

The main question that no one seems to know is, ‘What’s his health status?,” Koetter said.

NFL players have not been able to take undergo traditional physicals during the pandemic, so it’s not a shock to hear that Gurley hasn’t been checked out by the Falcons’ team doctors yet. Other free agents have had physicals conducted with independent and mutually agreed upon doctors, but Koetter’s comments seem to indicate that the Falcons are in the dark, to a degree, when it comes to their new running back.

For what it’s worth, those close to Gurley say that he is in minimal pain and healing up about as well as anyone could have expected. Once things get back to normal, the Falcons will want to take a close look at Gurley’s knee and formulate a game plan to keep him on the field. That injury has plagued the two-time All-Pro. With the Rams last year, he averaged just 3.8 yards per tote and just 6.7 yards per catch. Prior to that, he managed 40 all-purpose touchdowns between ’17 and ’18 while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

“What’s his workload?,” Koetter asked, rhetorically (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure). “He averaged about 17 touches a game last year, which is a little lower than he had been when he was All-Pro. We’re just gonna have to find that out once we get here and get him working, get him up and running.”

In a worst case scenario, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff says the team has injury protection on Gurley’s deal. Assuming everything checks out, Gurley will star in the Falcons’ backfield on a one-year, $11MM deal. Only $6MM of that figure comes from the Falcons’ books – the Rams are on the hook for $7.5MM and the rest ($2.5MM) comes by way of offset pay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons To Consider Kicking Competition 

Younghoe Koo isn’t a lock to be the Falcons’ kicker this year. Head coach Dan Quinn says he’s thinking about adding another kicker to the 90-man offseason roster to compete alongside him.

We are still definitely considering adding a kicker into that spot,” Quinn said. “You could imagine that some of those decisions involve workouts and things that aren’t at this space.”

The Falcons passed on this year’s class of incoming kickers, which included Justin Rohrwasser (Patriots, fifth round), Tyler Bass (Bills, sixth round), and Sam Sloman (Rams, seventh round). Some expected them to dip into the available crop of rookie kickers, since they’ve had trouble in that department. Last year, they thought they were set with Giorgio Tavecchio. Then, the preseason happened – after Tavecchio missed his fourth attempt out of eight, they briefly pivoted to Blair Walsh before circling back to Matt Bryant. Bryant – who has been reliable, historically – flopped, leading them to Koo in late October.

Koo performed well, nailing 23 of 26 field goal tries and 15 of 16 extra points. Still, the Falcons won’t rest easy when it comes to their kickers. From the sound of it, they’ll have another leg in the mix this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.