Cover 9@9: Falcons owe fans an explanation in Julio Jones saga

1. The no-spin zone: The Falcons are asking folks essentially to take out mortgages to buy private seat licenses (PSLs), but can’t explain to them why Julio Jones, the all-time franchise receiving leader, is about to be traded?

Plain and simple, the Falcons owe their fans an explanation as to why they appear set to give Jones away for some meager draft picks.

Falcons coach Arthur Smith hid behind the “private conversation” exception in the rookie head coach manual instead of shedding light on the situation.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Smith said. “My door is always open. My phone is always on. There is a level of trust that we want to build here with the players. All of the players know that. When we have private conversations, those are private, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

Here’ what we know:

The private conversation he’s referring to is the one where Jones asked to be traded.

Whatever problems Jones had that led to him requesting the trade should have been rectified by the new administration.

Something happened that led Jones to request a trade. Jones hasn’t come forth to explain why he wants to be traded.

It’s pretty clear that relations went south during the transition from Dan Quinn to Raheem Morris to Arthur Smith. Team president Rich McKay hired general manager Terry Fontenot, who reportedly favored Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who knows Sean Payton’s offensive system inside-and-out.

“Saints North” would have been too much for the fan base to stomach.

Smith, who’d never met Fontenot before, was named the head coach. A Saints-Titans marriage to turn around the Falcons made sense.

At that point, the three should have been on the phone to team’s top players. After quarterback Matt Ryan, the next call should have been to Jones.

Because of poor drafting and the desire to re-sign the core of the Super Bowl team of four years ago, the Falcons do have a bad salary-cap situation. But trying to fix it by trading Jones doesn’t make good sense.

The Falcons are not a better team without Jones, even if he’s hobbled again next season.

Before the draft, the Falcons let it be known that they would accept all calls for Jones’ services.

Jones went on national television this week, whether he knew it was live doesn’t matter, and said “I’m outta there” about his time in Atlanta on FS1′s “Undisputed” show with Shannon Sharpe.

“We have great appreciation and respect for Julio and what he’s done here, for all of the players that have been a part of this organization,” Smith said. “This is a tough business. We all signed up for it. Players and coaches.

“We all understand that. Everything we do here is going to be well thought out, and it will be handled behind the scenes with dignity here. As long as I’m here, that’s the way it will be done. Again, we understand the business that we’re in. Every player here will be treated with dignity.”

Yeah, but Smith or someone in the organization needs to show the fan base that same dignity and respect while they are paying for their PSLs.

2. Jarrett on the defense: The Falcons ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed last season, but defensive tackle Grady Jarrett doesn’t believe the unit is rebuilding.

“No, I don’t believe that,” Jarrett said. “I feel like we have the guys to have a great defense. We are working every day to be better and put a dominant defense on the field.”

Jarrett knows he’ll play a central role on the unit.

“I prepare week in and week out, to be the best defender in the league,” Jarrett said. “Go in there and do what I have to do. Try to put (out) a good example for my teammates. You know, we are never at a point where we are just saying that we’re about sit back and take a day (off). We are grinding every day.”

3. Graham’s impression: Jarrett has been impressed with defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham, a fifth-round pick out of Texas.

“T.Q. is looking good,” Jarrett said. “I haven’t had much time to spend with him. But it feels like he’s a hard worker and a good kid. He’s well-built, especially for a rookie coming in here looking like he’s in good shape.”

Jarrett, the two-time Pro Bowler, also was a fifth-round pick, out of Clemson.

“I’m excited for him,” Jarrett said. “I don’t know what the expectations are for him. He seems like the kind of guy who can control what he can and not speak for nobody else. I’m excited to have him on the team and whatever he can add.”

4. First OTA: With trade demands of wide receiver Julio Jones dominating the conversation, the Falcons held their first team meeting and open OTA on Tuesday.

Explore5 takeaways from Falcons’ first open OTAs

“Julio has been nothing but a great teammate,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said after practice. “Tremendous leader and outstanding player. I’d love to continue playing with him, but I feel this is something for him to kind of answer or (coach) Arthur (Smith). I can’t really speak on his behalf, but we had a great day today. We worked really hard. We are working on building a winning program.”

Here are five takeaways from the voluntary practice:

5. Attendance: Jones, safety Duron Harmon, outside linebacker Dante Fowler, returner/running back Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Lee Smith were not present at the session. Also, wide receiver Calvin Ridley was present, but did not participate.

6. Injury update: Right tackle Kaleb McGary is working through some issues. Matt Gono lined up at right tackle.

7. Who’s at left guard: Veteran Josh Andrews was at left guard. Also, rookie Jalen Mayfield was at the spot with the younger players.

8. Right cornerback: Veteran Fabian Moreau lined up at right cornerback. Last season, Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield were given shots at right cornerback.

9. Number change: Wide receiver Russell Gage changed his jersey number from 83 to 14.

10. Depth chart: Here’s the depth chart heading into Phase 2 of the offseason program:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 86 Antonio Nunn

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 William Sweet, 75 Kion Smith

LG 77 Jalen Mayfield, 66 Willie Wright, 64 Ryan Neuzil

C 61 Matt Hennessy, 68 Josh Andrews, 67 Drew Dalman

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 62 Bryce Hargrove, 65 Joe Sculthorpe, 71 Sam Jones

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 73 Matt Gono, 72 Willie Beavers

TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 8 Kyle Pitts, 85 Lee Smith, 87 Jaeden Graham, 46 Parker Hesse, 80 Ryan Becker, 89 John Raine

WR 14 Russell Gage, 16 Greg Dortch, 82 Austin Trammell, 83 Tajae Sharpe

WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 88 Frank Darby

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 5 AJ McCarron, 15 Feleipe Franks

HB 28 Mike Davis, 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 30 Qadree Ollison, 36 Tony Brooks-James, 25 Javian Hawkins, 42 Caleb Huntley

FB 40 Keith Smith


DL 55 Steven Means, 95 Ta’Quon Graham, 79 Chris Slayton

DL 97 Grady Jarrett, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Zac Dawe, 98 Eli Ankou

DL 96 Tyeler Davison, 99 Jonathan Bullard, 50 John Cominsky, 69 Olive Sagapolu

OLB 56 Dante Fowler, 92 Adetokunbo Ogundeji, 59 Alani Pututau

ILB 45 Deion Jones, 51 Brandon Copeland, 53 Erroll Thompson

ILB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 43 Mykal Walker, 48 Dorian Etheridge

OLB 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 52 Barkevious Mingo, 49 Kobe Jones

RCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 22 Fabian Moreau, 29 Chris Williamson

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Tyler Hall, 34 Darren Hall, 38 Marcus Murphy, 41 J.R. Pace

NCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 25 Delrick Abrams, 35 Avery Williams

FS 23 Erik Harris, 27 Richie Grant, 39 T.J. Green, 37 Dwayne Johnson

SS 32 Jaylinn Hawkins


K 7 Younghoe Koo

P 4 Sterling Hofrichter, 9 Dom Maggio

LS 47 Josh Harris

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

KR 84 Cordarrelle Patterson, 12 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams

PR 14 Chris Rowland, 35 Avery Williams