Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Mixon off Falcons' draft board; team still uncertain about Freeney return

The Falcons aren't in need of a running back going into next week's draft because they already have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. But even if they were looking for a new ball carrier, they would not draft Oklahoma's Joe Mixon.

The Falcons have red-lined Mixon on their draft board. Actually, he's not even on their board, it was learned Thursday. The former Oklahoma running back plead to a misdemeanor assault charge for punching a woman in October of 2014.

Mixon, who received a one-year deferred sentence and was ordered to undergo counseling, is considered to have first-round talent but could slide into at least the second round because of his history and the fact NFL teams are increasingly sensitive to the criticism of players involved in domestic violence cases.  Mixon also was suspended for one game in 2016 when he became upset at a female parking attendant who gave him a ticket, tore up the citation, threw it in her face and was alleged to have taken a step toward her to intimidate her.

Neither Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff nor coach Dan Quinn would say Thursday whether Mixon was on the Falcons' draft board. But Dimitroff shared the organization's philosophy, saying, "We’re really proud of the type of people we bring in here. We’re not looking for angels. We’re looking for guys who are real. We’re looking for guys who fit in this situation and the brotherhood. We’re particular about looking at the character situation and how they fit."

The Falcons have been more sensitive to past legal issues of players in recent years, particularly since the Michael Vick dog fighting saga.

"It’s a big thing," Dimitroff said of a players' past. "And there are certain topics that are really touchy subjects – domestic issues and such. That doesn’t just come from just the head coach and the general manager, that comes from higher than us. Mr. (Arthur) Blank is very direct about it. Some times things fall through the cracks but we do all we can to make sure about our acquisitions."

FREENEY'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN: The Falcons have yet to decide whether to extend an offer to defensive end Dwight Freeney about returning next season, and they won't until after the draft, when they assess their roster and the potential need for a pass rusher. There has been no great rush because Freeney, who turned 37 in February, wasn't likely to take part in the team's spring workouts anyway.

Freeney also could decide he wants to retire, although USA Today reported in February that he wants to return for a 16th season. Freeney had only three sacks last season but he had one in the Super Bowl against New England and was a valuable mentor for the Falcons' young defensive players, especially edge rusher Vic Beasley.

DEVONTA FREEMAN: The Falcons remain confident they will be able to sign running back Devonta Freeman to an extension but don't expect a deal any time soon. It's unlikely they'll begin negotiations until just before training camp and talks could extend into the season. He has one year left on his contract at $1.797 million but has outplayed his rookie deal and is looking for a significant raise. The ripple effect of those negotiations could be significant because the Falcons have several high-profile players whose contracts expire in the next two years.

For more on that, see my column posted on later today. I will link it here after it's posted.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Falcons column.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.