Falcons focus on moving forward

So now what?

Despite their historic collapse in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Falcons believe they are positioned to compete for more NFL titles in the immediate future.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank maintains the team can fulfill his goal of sustained winning football at the league’s highest levels.

“It’s not ending of a journey for us,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “You have to raise the bar. That’s what you’re always trying to do in the world of business and it’s the same in the world of sports as well.”

The team has the key ingredient in quarterback Matt Ryan, the league’s most valuable player, and several skilled players, including All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, to go with a young defense that should improve with more seasoning.

After giving up 37 sacks over the season and five sacks and 12 quarterback hits in the Super Bowl, the offensive line may see some additional upgrades over the offseason. And foremost, the team must find a replacement for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is expected to be named the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in the coming few days.

There may also be additional changes to the coaching staff. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur is set to interview for the offensive coordinator position with the Los Angeles Rams.

Next on the agenda is the NFL scouting combine, which is set for Feb. 28 through March 6 in Indianapolis. The pre-free agency period for teams to start negotiating with prospective free agents runs from March 7-9.

The official 2017 league year and free agency period start at 4 p.m. on March 9.

That was an important period last year for the Falcons, who made several key transactions, including the signings of center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. They must also make some key decisions on the players they will attempt to keep from free agency.

The Falcons potential list of free agents include: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, quarterback Matt Schaub, linebacker Paul Worrilow, right guard Chris Chester, tight end Jacob Tamme, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, returner Eric Weems, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Philip Wheeler, safety Dashon Goldson, tackle Tom Compton, fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, tight end Levine Toilolo and safety Kemal Ishmael.

Babineaux, a 12-year veteran who made $3 million last season, said he wants to continue playing.

Schaub, 35, may be headed to San Francisco with Shanahan.

Worrilow, a former starter, may want to test the open market after losing his position to rookie Deion Jones. Freeney, also 35, may want to retire. Ishmael, a valuable reserve, may also get some interest on the open market.

The Falcons can start their offseason workout program on April 17.

The NFL draft will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

History suggests that is going to be difficult for the Falcons to substantially rebuild next season. The losing team in the Super Bowl has not returned to the game the following season since Buffalo in 1994.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn started on repairing the psyche of his young team right after Sunday’s loss.

“Well, I told them it’s tough to find a spot for it, on a night like (Sunday), but the brotherhood that they have built for one another, it’s as strong as I’ve seen,” Quinn said. “To know that is inside of them, how tight they can get connected to a team, how hard they can play for one another, of course, there’s things to gain from that.

“There is never going to be a way to get over the loss, but what it does have is some of that toughness that you have to go through. It does make you stronger.”

General manager Thomas Dimitroff broke away with assistant general manager Scott Pioli to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile. The team plans to used all methods to improve the roster and points to the pickup of wide receiver Taylor Gabriel off waivers as a prime example.

“It’s vital,” Dimitroff said. “… You continue to have an open mind and you’re willing to go out into the market and grab someone that is ideal for your team. Taylor Gabriel was a perfect compliment to what we were doing with our offense. We love having that there.”

Quinn will also continue to have a major role in shaping the roster.

“I think first of all, generally speaking, it was so important to come into the draft with our head coach together as a really true partnership with a common vision for both the coaching staff and the personnel department,” Dimitroff said. “We were going out and looking for the exact things we were looking for, the nuances of the defense and the offense that were very specific to our scheme. That was No. 1.”

In the meantime, Quinn believes some momentum exists for next season.

“The guys battled as hard as they can,” Quinn said. “Certainly not questioning the intensity on either side. Both teams left it out there.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Atlanta Falcons

Steelers S Mike Mitchell receives two fines for illegal hits against Chiefs
Steelers S Mike Mitchell receives two fines for illegal hits against Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell will be out close to $60,000 because of fines for illegal hits against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was originally reported that he would be fined nearly $49,000 for a late hit against Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, that he was flagged for during the game. That hit will actually only cost...
Vikings LB Anthony Barr gives his opinion of the Aaron Rodgers hit
Vikings LB Anthony Barr gives his opinion of the Aaron Rodgers hit

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hit Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week. The two slammed to the ground, then Barr jumped back up. Rodgers did not. The All Pro quarterback had a broken right collarbone. He had surgery on Thursday and is likely out for the season. People have been saying it was a dirty hit, and...
Patriots WR Chris Hogan had a simple, clear response when asked about rib injury
Patriots WR Chris Hogan had a simple, clear response when asked about rib injury

New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan is not concerned about his rib injury that has kept him limited in practice throughout the week. During the Patriots Week 6 win against the New York Jets, he took a shot to the ribs from New York Jets safety Marcus Maye. He told reporters on Friday that he feels “good,&rdquo...
Pittsburgh Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt out Sunday against Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt out Sunday against Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without defensive end Stephon Tuitt on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tuitt has not practiced all week while dealing with a back injury, and the Steelers ruled him out for the game. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. He missed three consecutive game before returning...
Rumor says the Broncos have contacted one specific team after a critical injury
Rumor says the Broncos have contacted one specific team after a critical injury

The Denver Broncos lost tackles Donald Stephenson and Menelik Watson to injury, and they may be eyeing a trade to bolster the banged-up offensive line. “Strong rumor circulating that the Broncos are sniffing the Bills out for an offensive tackle…” wrote Benjamin Allbright on Friday. It’s very important...
More Stories