Rather than select top quarterback prospects Justin Fields or Mac Jones with the fourth overall pick, the Falcons added Florida tight end Kyle Pitts to a dangerous offense. After months of trade rumors, Ryan may finally be able to breathe about his future in Atlanta.
The Falcons are sticking with Matt Ryan at quarterback
Barring an injury, Matt Ryan will start for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, and that’s exactly what Arthur Smith, the team’s new head coach, wanted all along.
In a recent interview with NBC Sports, Smith told Peter King that the Falcons are still high on Ryan as a quarterback. Despite only winning 18 of his 47 starts over the last three seasons, Ryan completed 66.9% of his passes for 13,971 yards, 87 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions.
“With Matt, I see a really high-quality starting quarterback who’s thrown for 55,000 yards in this league and had unbelievable experience and is still throwing guys open. It doesn’t sound absurd anymore to say, ‘Hey, I want to play till I’m 40.’ If he didn’t want to play, that would be a different set of problems.”Arthur Smith
Interestingly, Smith acknowledged that things wouldn’t have been much different if Ryan, who turns 36 on May 17, didn’t intend to play in 2021. He specifically expressed concern about the “unintended consequences” that would have come from taking the wrong quarterback with the fourth overall pick.
Ryan will have some dangerous weapons in 2021
The Atlanta Falcons are committed to fielding a high-octane offense in the fall.
Ryan returns for his 14th season as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, and he’ll have no shortage of proven weapons. Julio Jones, who is arguably the greatest receiver in Falcons history, remained on the roster as of publication.
Calvin Ridley broke out in 2020 and set career highs in receptions (90) and receiving yards (nine) over 15 games. Russell Gage added 72 catches, 786 yards, and four touchdowns as the team’s third receiver.
Hayden Hurst, the talented tight end who had 571 yards and six touchdowns, is expected to return for his second season in Atlanta.
Atlanta also added Cordarrelle Patterson, the four-time All-Pro return specialist. Although Patterson primarily plays running back on offense, he spent the first few years of his career as a receiver.
Atlanta still has to answer the Julio Jones question
The Falcons appear to have solved the Ryan problem, at least for now. But the new regime still needs to deal with another situation before the season begins in September.
Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, is still the subject of trade rumors. Atlanta cannot officially trade him until after June 1 for salary-cap reasons. The Falcons would create an estimated $15 million in cap space if they deal the 32-year-old wideout.
Jones had 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last year. With Ryan in the mix, Jones should have an opportunity to bounce back in 2021.