Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. The No-Spin Zone. One of the key takeaways from the online chat with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on Tuesday was that the hang-up/delay with the announcement of the signing of running back Todd Gurley was over contract language.
When things settle, Gurley still will have to pass a team physical.
“Things are very different now per the contract language and how we go about getting someone signed, whether it’s Dante Fowler or Todd Gurley or whoever it may be,” Dimitroff said. “We look closely at it. We have language in our contracts that are going to protect us and the player. If the player comes in and has an issue that he might not pass a physical, that’s something that we'll address then.”
The Falcons believe Gurley, who has an injury history with his left knee, will pass his physical. Because of the NFL rules in place during the coronavirus pandemic, team doctors could not fly to Los Angeles to conduct the physical.
Normally, the free agent could have come to the team facility to take his physical and then sign his contract.
“In our mind, we’re thinking about Todd Gurley coming in, and Todd Gurley is — he really takes care of his body well, and he’ll continue to work on it,” Dimitroff said. “We’ll continue to be very mindful about what we are dealing with, and we feel very comfortable with it.”
Gurley is only 25, but has averaged 252 carries and 60.2 targets over his first five seasons in the league.
“Of course, this is a tough game,” Dimitroff said. “It’s a warrior game. We know that. I’m not spinning off on that. He’s a hard-charging runner and he’s an excellent football player, and we are counting on him to be an excellent football player for us.”
Yeah, but the physical.
“I would say on the contract as far as the confidence level in passing the physical, I feel good about that, and of course we have to be particular about it,” Dimitroff said. “We look at it very closely, and I feel good about that. So, I would say good.
“As far as his contributing to our team, if and when, which I'm going to say when he passes our physical, I think he's going to do a very good job contributing to this offense.
“Thinking about all the skills that he brings to the table for us not only as a runner, but also as a guy that can catch the ball. We are very encouraged by what we think he can add to us.”
2. Running-back depth.The Falcons have selected a running back in four of the past five drafts. Signing Gurley won’t preclude them from drafting another one this year.
“We’re a big mix-up team,” Dimitroff said. “We think that’s a very important part of making sure that we rotate our guys through there. They all come to the table with different positives and different traits, of course, and I would not — I’m a big believer in making sure that you have the mix.”
The Falcons added Qadree Ollison in the fifth round last season. He was used in short-yardage situations.
“We feel we have a big guy there,” Dimitroff said. “We feel we have the other backs that can do stuff and catch the ball and also run. It’s not meaning that we won’t look for another back in the draft that potentially has speed. That’s something we’ll continue to look at.”
3. Guitar lessons. Dimitroff showed the media three TV screens that will serve as the team’s draft board and communications central in his house. He walked by his guitar.
“I got that guitar for Christmas and I love it,” Dimitroff said. “It looks good, but I haven't learned to play it that well.”
4: AJC’s 2020 position-by-position draft series. The draft is set for April 23-25, and we’ve started our position-by-position series:
Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads class | Top 10 QBs
Running backs: Cam Akers’ life lesson | Top 10 RBs
Part 3: Tight ends
Part 4: Offensive line (guards/center)
Part 5: Offensive line (tackles)
Part 6: Wide receivers
Part 7: Defensive tackle
Part 8: Defensive end
Part 9: Linebackers
Part 10: Safeties
Part 11: Special Teams
Part 12: Cornerbacks
5. New uniforms. The Falcons released images of the season’s new looks. They were originally going to be announced April 14, but the Falcons pushed up the reveal after images reportedly leaked online.
6. Cunningham sees weaker squad. AJC columnist Michael Cunningham listened to Dimitroff on Tuesday and didn’t come away impressed with the new roster.
7. Free-agency grade.: Long-time NFL writer and former ESPN personality John Clayton, who currently writes an NFL column for The Washington Post, was not too impressed with the Falcons’ moves in free agency.
Clayton gave the Falcons a C-plus for their moves, which was his third lowest score in the NFC South. Carolina received a C, while New Orleans had a B and Tampa Bay, which landed Tom Brady, received an A-minus.
Here’s what Clayton had to say about the Falcons:
“Although it cost a second-round pick to land (Hayden) Hurst to replace (Austin) Hooper, the Falcons might have gotten a little better at defensive end with (Dante) Fowler replacing (Vic) Beasley. The (Devonta) Freeman-(Todd) Gurley swap might be even, but the Falcons still have needs at linebacker and cornerback.
8. Free agency tracker. Who’s coming, who’s going and who’s staying:
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
» Todd Gurley, running back - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Justin McCray, guard - Agreed to one-year deal with team.
» Hayden Hurst, tight end – Acquired via a trade with Baltimore.
» Edmond Robinson, linebacker – signed by the Falcons to a one-year deal March 28.
» Sam Irwin-Hill, punter – Signed to a one-year contract worth $510,000.
» Matt Schaub, quarterback – Club picked up his option, according to his agent.
» Keith Smith, fullback – Re-signed to a three-year deal.
» John Wetzel, offensive lineman – Vested veteran contract terminated and then re-signed.
» Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback - Agreed to one-year deal with the team.
» Tyeler Davison, defensive tackle - Agrees to three-year deal.
» Steven Means, defensive end - Re-signed to a one-year contract March 9.
» Sharrod Neasman, safety - Signed to one-year contract.
» Ryan Allen, punter – Signed to a one-year contract extension for $945,000 on Feb. 18.
» Austin Hooper, tight end – Will be allowed to hit the market. Has agreed to terms with the Browns.
» Devonta Freeman - Cut by the team March 17.
» Luke Stocker, tight end - To be released pending a physical.
» Kenjon Barner, running back - Unrestricted free agent.
» Justin Hardy, wide receiver - Will not re-sign with team.
» Matt Simms, quarterback -- Unrestricted free agent.
» Wes Schweitzer, offensive guard/center – Will be allowed to hit the market. Set to sign with Washington.
» Ty Sambrailo, tackle - Released by the team March 16. Signed by the Tennessee Titans.
» Desmond Trufant, cornerback - Released by team. He signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Detroit Lions.
» Vic Beasley, defensive end/linebacker – Will not re-sign. Will join Titans on a one-year deal.
» De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker – Will be allowed to hit the market. Agreed to one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with Arizona.
» Adrian Clayborn, defensive end - Agreed to terms with the Browns on Tuesday, March 31.
» Jack Crawford, defensive tackle - Signed with Tennessee on Tuesday, March 31.
» Johnathan Cyprien, safety - Unrestricted free agent.
» Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive tackle – Waived by the team Jan. 13.
» Kemal Ishmael, safety/linebacker – Will not re-sign with Falcons.
» Jamar Taylor, cornerback - Unrestricted free agent.
» J.J. Wilcox, safety -- Unrestricted free agent.
» Matt Bosher, punter -- Unrestricted free agent.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
» Brian Hill, running back - Falcons placed fifth-round tender on him.
» Michael Bennett, defensive tackle – free agent
» Younghoe Koo, placekicker – Signed a one-year contract extension for $660,000 on Feb. 18.
9. Updated depth chart. Gurley will head up the running back committee.
“But we feel really good about the group of running backs that we have with Todd Gurley at the front of the line,” Dimitroff said.
Here’s a look at the Falcons’ updated depth chart:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 19 Devin Gray, 80 Laquon Treadwell
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel
LG 73 Matt Gono, 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack
RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Justin McCray
RT 76 Kaleb McGary
TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 86 Khari Lee 87 Jaeden Graham, 85 Carson Meier
WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert, 16 Danny Etling
RB 21/23 Todd Gurley, 25 Ito Smith, 30 Qadree Ollison, 23 Brian Hill, 42 Craig Reynolds
FB 40 Keith Smith
DE 56 Dante Fowler 53 Austin Larkin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 50 John Cominsky
DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat
DE 93 Allen Bailey, 55 Steven Means
DE 99 Takk McKinley 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 46 Edmond Robinson, 52 Ahmad Thomas
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 LaRoy Reynolds
RCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 39 C.J. Reavis
LCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller
NCB 37 Ricardo Allen, 34 Chris Cooper
SS 22 Keanu Neal, 35 Jamal Carter
FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 37 Ricardo Allen
K 7 Younghoe Koo
KO 7 Younghoe Koo
P 9 Ryan Allen, 9 Sam Irwin-Hill
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 9 Ryan Allen
KOR 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
PR 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell
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