Good morning! Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly list of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a little late today because we were up late waiting for the LeVeon Bell mixtape to drop.
1. Polling the fans. Falcons fans were not overly impressed with the deals for guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown.
In our little poll over on Twitter, 57 percent voted for “wait and see.” While 23 percent voted “no, they are journeyman” and 20 percent voted “yes, I’m dazzled.”
Both have some bad ink out on the streets.
Carpenter, who’s started at left guard in two Super Bowls, is considered a strong pass blocker, but shaky in the run game.
He was born in Augusta and played high school football at Hephzibah High. He went to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College and then played at Alabama.
Brown is considered a strong run blocker and shaky in pass protection.
Whatever the case, both are upgrades.
On the eve of the start of NFL free agency, the Falcons gained enough salary-cap room to add some much-needed talent along the offensive line.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team is being creative with its salary cap and plans to find room to add players.
“We just have all of our high-price guys, and we have to be respectfully creative,” Dimitroff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday before leaving Georgia Tech’s Pro Day. “I’ve seen some things written about us being in a dire situation. We are not in a dire situation.”
A few hours later, the Falcons had agreed to deals to sign Brown and Carpenter. Neither has been to a Pro Bowl, but have started a combined 135 NFL games.
The team reportedly gained $7 million in cap space by converting $8.75 million of quarterback Matt Ryan’s base salary into a signing bonus.
“You have automatic conversions,” Dimitroff said. “We’re in a good solid spot as much as it doesn’t look to the eye.”
He declined to speak about specific player’s contracts, but said the team planned to be creative in finding new salary-cap space.
Brown, who’ll turn 26 on Friday, was a third-round pick by the Rams in 2015. He’s played in 50 games and made 38 starts. He’s 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds.
He played with the Rams and the Giants last season.
Brown is expected to slide into the right guard position.
Carpenter, who will turn 30 on March 22, was a first-round pick (25th overall) of Seattle in 2011. He has played the past four seasons with the Jets.
Carpenter has played in 103 games and made 97 starts in the NFL.
He has played in the Seattle’s outside zone scheme (2011-14) and started at left guard in Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX.
2. Offensive-line depth chart. The Falcons could field a line of left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard Carpenter, center Alex Mack, right guard Brown and right tackle Ty Sambrailo.
Guards Wes Schweitzer and Brandon Fusco would be left to compete along with Ryan Schraeder, who was last season’s opening starter at right tackle.
The Falcons also carried tackle Matt Gono, an undrafted rookie last season, on the 53-man roster.
3. More space is possible. The Falcons can add more space by reaching deals with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and wide receiver Julio Jones. Jarrett currently counts $15.2 million against the salary cap after receiving the team’s franchise tag.
With free agency set to start at 4 p.m. Wednesday, here’s a look at the Falcons’ situation.
The move with Ryan’s contract will put the Falcons at $12.6 million under the cap before the Brown and Carpenter deals.
The team also is interested in re-signing linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin, special-teams player Justin Bethel, tight end Logan Paulsen, linebacker Kemal Ishmael, safety Jordan Richards, wide receiver Justin Hardy and wide receiver Marvin Hall and will need to create more salary-cap room.
4. Running back market stalled. With the LeVeon Bell deal done, the running back market may pick up.
The Falcons are monitoring the situation of running back Tevin Coleman, who has yet to find a new deal.
Frank Gore didn’t do Coleman any favors by taking the one-year, $2 million deal with Buffalo.
5. Alexander at fullback: Former Georgia Tech linebacker Victor Alexander had been planning for his NFL pro day for awhile.
Last season, a few NFL scouts, including one from the Falcons, asked him if he could play fullback and work on some special-teams assignments.
“I’ve been working at fullback and doing special-team things in the offseason to try to get prepared for (pro day) as well as trying to get my special-teams film together to send out to them as well,” Alexander said Tuesday.
Alexander, who played in 47 games and started 17 games over his career at Tech, was fine with the move.
“It was pretty easy,” Alexander said. “I felt like I had some running back and fullback abilities from in my past life in high school and Pop Warner and stuff like that. I had to awaken those skills.
“I feel like it was pretty simple. It came back pretty naturally.”
Alexander was listed at 5-10 and 237 pounds while playing at Tech. He led the team with 60 tackles as a junior.
Alexander’s love for collisions would serve him well as a NFL lead-blocking fullback.
“Playing linebacker and getting physical is pretty much my forte,” Alexander said.
6. Johnson at linebacker: Former Georgia Tech safety Jalen Johnson was looked at as a hybrid NFL safety/linebacker.
“That’s where a lot of people were telling I’d be a best fit at hybrid position,” Johnson said. “I did safety drills and linebacker drills. I knew that coming in, so I prepared for both.”
Playing closer to the line of scrimmage is fine with Johnson.
“It’s more physical,” Johnson said. “I weighed around 218 today, and (a scout) said to play with us (I’d need to be) around 225 or 230. I’ve been 225 before. It definitely is more physical.”
Johnson doesn’t believe he’ll have a problem adding weight.
“I’m going to take a couple of days off,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working for eight weeks now. Just enjoy the time with my family. Just get back to work whenever my time comes.”
Johnson has one team interested in a personal workout.
“I know one guy from the Giants said he wants to work out with me soon,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to that whenever I get my chance.”
7. Marshall at wide receiver. Former Georgia Tech quarterback Taquon Marshall showed his elusiveness in the open field while running the triple-option at Tech.
But can he catch the ball?
“I thought I showed that I can transition very well from the quarterback position in college to playing receiver,” Marshall said. “I didn’t drop any balls on the live routes, so I thought I had a pretty good day catching the ball.”
Marshall picked up tips on how to get in and out of his routes from Tech wide receivers, including Brad Stewart. They also discussed how to attack the ball in the air.
“He’s just so smooth,” Stewart said. “He’s an athlete. His transition from triple-option quarterback to a receiver, he’s made tremendous leaps and bounds.”
Marshall and Stewart both caught punts for the scouts.
“My freshman year I caught punts,” Marshall said. “My sophomore year I caught punts in practice all the way up until I started playing quarterback. I think I still have that in my back pocket.”
8. Falcons attended. The Falcons were represented by coach Dan Quinn, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant general manager Scott Pioli, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and scouting assistant Penial Jean.
A total of 38 scouts, coaches and executives represented the 26 teams in attendance.
The NFL draft will be held April 25-27 in Nashville.
9. TOP PERFORMANCES – 2019 GEORGIA TECH PRO DAY
Jalen Johnson – 4.61
Brad Stewart – 4.66
Malik Rivera – 4.69
TaQuon Marshall – 4.70
Stewart – 4.19
J.J. Green – 4.28
Qua Searcy – 6.97 (would have ranked third among running backs at 2019 NFL Combine)
Stewart – 7.03
Searcy – 11.63 (would have ranked first among running backs at 2019 NFL Combine)
Marshall – 11.68
Rivera – 11.68
Green – 11.69 (would have tied for first among running backs at 2019 NFL Combine)
Johnson – 10-2
Anree Saint-Amour – 10-2 (would have ranked fifth among edge rushers at 2019 NFL Combine)
Searcy – 10-1
Saint-Amour – 35 (would have ranked ninth among edge rushers at 2019 NFL Combine)
Searcy – 35
Stewart – 35
Johnson – 34
Rivera – 33
225-pound bench press
Will Bryan – 31 (would have ranked fifth among offensive linemen at 2019 NFL Combine)
Antonio Mallard – 30
Saint-Amour – 26
Kyle Cerge-Henderson – 25
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