COVER 9@9: What’s going on in Carolina?

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman gestures as he speaks to the media during his end of season press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers fired Gettleman, they announced Monday. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman gestures as he speaks to the media during his end of season press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers fired Gettleman, they announced Monday. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. KEEP POUNDING: Gazed down at the bat phone on Monday morning and had one of those ALERTS!!!

The bells were ringing.

Colors were flashing all over the screen.

At first, I thought 45 had been impeached and banished to Siberia.

But it said, “Panthers fire Gettleman.”

Quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised. I would have fired him last year for letting Josh Norman get away for nothing.

Teams invest millions on developing players and then when you cut them and let them go for no apparent reason, that’s unacceptable.

Not only did the Panthers not receive any compensation for Norman, but Gettleman ruined the chemistry in the locker room. Other players take note of those things.

They wonder aloud “if they are not going to sign the Pro Bowl cornerback that they drafted and developed, what’s going to happen to me?”

So, it was no surprise that the Panthers went careening out of control last season with a shook locker room and two rookies playing at cornerback. There was a breach of trust with the front office.

The 6-10 mark could be very easily traced back to the mishandling of the Norman negotiations. Yeah, Norman talked a bunch of baloney, but that’s him.

The “shut and play” days are over. Football has ventured into entertainment side of things with this modified celebration rule.

Word out of Charlotte is that Gettleman was balking at re-signing tight end Greg Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis, the former Georgia standout, who’s had an outstanding career for the Panthers.

Gettleman had already ran off wide receiver Steve Smith and running back DeAngelo Williams. He also let Kony Ealy leave through free agency.  And for some bizarre reason, paid Matt Kalil $55 million in free agency after he was a turnstile in Minnesota.

The Panthers appear set to rehire Marty Hurney, who was fired in 2012, as their interim general manager.

The Falcons don’t have this problem under general manager Thomas Dimitroff. His first major move was to trade cornerback DeAngelo Hall to Oakland. He wasn’t going to cut him and not receive any compensation.

Dimitroff has also rewarded players with early contract extensions and kept star players like Matt Ryan and cornerback Desmond Trufant from reaching free agency.

The only contentious player move during Dimitroff’s tenure was the 2009 training camp holdout by former wide receiver Roddy White. The sides quickly agreed to a six-year $50 million extension with an $18.6 million signing bonus.

Everyone was happy and White kept rolling along for another four seasons before his play started to dip in 2013.

Dimitroff did under value veteran centerTodd McClure after the 2012 season. He didn’t re-sign Mud Duck and his job was handed to Peter Konz who failed miserably. GM’s aren’t going to bat 1.000.

Now, the Falcons have a potential situation with running back Devonta Freeman. Dimitroff and owner Arthur Blank have expressed their profound love for Freeman, the person and player.

The market for running backs has changed drastically with the Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles being released from their big-money contracts in Minnesota and Kansas City respectively.

Freeman was watching closing as Pittsburgh was not able to reach a long-term deal with running back Le’Veon Bell. He’s set to play for the $12.12 million franchise tag.

The Falcons are under no obligation to extend Freeman, who’s set to make $1.8 million on the final year of his rookie contract in 2017. He could then be franchise tagged for the next two seasons.

But the Falcons have been discussing a contract extension in some “good faith” negotiations. A modest-to-very generous increase is definitely in order, but the Falcons own most of the chips like most teams do in NFL negotiations.

His camp wants him to be paid like an “elite” running back. They made it known during the Super Bowl week and again during free agency, before trying to distance themselves from tweets from Luther Campbell.

The Falcons have remained calm.

“It’s not going to be a contentious issue in my mind,” Dimitroff said over the offseason. “It’s going to be one that is going to be fairly quick. We know what the market is and we are confident that we can get something done.”

Owner Arthur Blank said on June 26 that things should be done “fairly soon.”

While thinks appear smooth in Flowery Branch, what are the Panthers going to do with camp set to open?

 A view of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field on Monday, via the stadium’s live web cam. (

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

icon to expand image

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

1A. DIMITROFF CYCLE AWARENESS PROGRAM: Dimitroff has partnered with the East Lake YMCA and Future Wheels to host a bicycle build day with 25 kids from their summer program, all of whom will be able to take home the bike they construct. In addition to providing the bikes, Dimitroff will also provide bicycle helmets and locks to every child.

The event will take place on Monday, July 24 starting at 10:00AM.


YMCA Youth and Teen Development Center

1765 Memorial Drive

Atlanta, GA 30317


10 a.m. – Introduction of Thomas Dimitroff to the kids and Future Wheels staff

10:15 a.m. – Bike Preparation Demonstration

10:35 a.m. – Build Bikes

10:55 a.m. – Q & A

11:05 a.m. – Build Bikes

11:30 a.m. – Lunch (bike inspections by Future Wheels staff, Falcons will provide lunch for students)

12:30 p.m. – Optional bike ride

1 p.m. – Close

Throughout his time with the Falcons, Dimitroff has participated in a number of cycling events, including the 2012 Camp Twin Lakes Spin for Kids in Rutledge, the ABC’s 2011 BeltLine Bike Tour, and the Pedal with a Purpose to benefit Georgia Cancer Foundation 100-mile ride in 2010. Additionally, the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation awarded the ABC a grant to conduct a feasibility study for bike sharing in the city in 2012.

2. NEW STADIUM UPDATE: In another milepost toward next month's opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the cranes have been removed from the field and preparations have begun for installation of the artificial-turf playing surface. LEADOFF blog.

3. McKINLEY'S JERSEY MOVING OFF THE RACKS:  Rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley's No. 98 jersey ranks No. 8 in jersey sales among NFL rookies on the Dicks Sporting Goods Jersey Report, our JuliaKate K. Culpepper reported.

After being selected with the 26th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, McKinley’s jersey is the 17th best-selling jersey among NFL defensive players and the third-highest selling Falcons jersey after receiver Julio Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan.


 Center Nick Mangold (74) was released by the Jets after making the Pro Bowl team seven times. He's 33 and coming off an ankle injury. (Mike Mccarn/Associated Press)

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

5. CAN MANGOLD PLAY RIGHT GUARD? The Falcons are getting awfully thin along the interior offensive line spots.

After all of the starters answered the bell for 19 straight games last season, depth along the offensive line should be the number one priority heading into training camp.

All of the starters making it through 19 games --- although center Alex Mack limped across the finish line in the Super Bowl with a broken fibula -- just doesn't happen very often.

With most of the 90-man rosters packed with players for training camp, there are no highly touted prospects out on the streets ready to come in a save the day. Even checked on our old pal Mike Person and he re-signed with Kansas City.

However, there is  one exception.

Former New York Jets center Nick Mangold, a seven-time Pro Bowler was released over the offseason in their tank for the draft campaign that I hope doesn't get good football man Todd Bowles fired.

Mangold has played in 164 games.

Mangold, 33, missed eight games last season with an ankle injury. He visited with Baltimore in April. He seemed upset about the lingering recovery from his ankle injury, but that might have been a veteran ploy to miss the offseason workouts.

The Falcons have signed veterans to be backups before. In 2015, they signed former high draft pick Jake Long and he served as the backup swing tackle. They made a trade to land Andy Levitre before the start of the 2015 season.

Long only played in four games, but was ready if young tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder faltered.

The lack of depth behind Mack, left guard Levitre and right guard combatants Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland is troubling. There's no one with an NFL start.

Presumably, the loser of the Schweitzer/Garland battle will be the swing guard and then there is rookie Sean Harlow, a fourth-round pick. But the combined number of NFL starts is zero.


Part 1: Quarterbacks

Part 3: Wide receivers

Part 4: Tight ends

Part 5: Offensive line

Part 10: Specialists



The Falcons will report for training camp on Wednesday, July 26.

Training camp will be held at the team’s facilities in Flowery Branch for the 13th consecutive season.

Selected practices will be open to the public, but there is not a "Friday Night Lights" event listed. The team has gone into the community for a scrimmage at local high school since first holding the event during the Jim Mora regime at Grady High in 2006.

8. INTERIOR LINE SPOTS: A quick roster analysis reveals that the Falcons are thin at the interior line positions and have no one who's started an NFL game behind center Alex Mack and left guard Andy Levitre after placing center/guard Trevor Robinson on the reserve/retired list on Monday.

The Falcons also lost Hugh Thornton to retirement over the offseason.

Both had NFL experience and were signed to minor make-good contracts. The Falcons also lost starting right guard Chris Chester to retirement.

Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland are set to battle to replace Chester and neither has started an NFL game.

Robinson was excused from the offseason program to deal with a distressed family issue.

Robinson, 27, who played at Notre Dame, started seven games with Cincinnati (2012) and 14 with San Diego (2014-15) as a center.

Thornton, 25, signed March 21 after playing in 37 games and making 32 starts for the Indianapolis Colts after he was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft.

Thornton, who played at Illinois, retired in May.

The Falcons signed Cornelius Edison, who played in six games with Chicago, but has no NFL starts.

The Falcons drafted Sean Harlow in the fourth round and signed undrafted centers Travis Averill and Cam Keizur. They also added guard Marquis Lucas, who's spent time with Buffalo and Minnesota.

The Falcons are converting Harlow, who played tackle at Oregon State, to guard.

With most of the 90-man rosters packed with players for training camp, there are no highly touted prospects out on the street with one exception. Former New York center Nick Mangold, a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Jets was released over the offseason. He's played in 164 games.

He missed eight games last season with an ankle injury. He visited with Baltimore in April.


Here's the projected depth chart heading in to training camp:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 69 Marquis Lucas

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 4 Alek Torgersen

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 38 Brian Hill, 35 B.J. Daniels

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew

DEFENSEDE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed,  Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB  36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J'Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert