Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Ryan set to become NFL’s first $30 million dollar a year man 

Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It's our weekly blog of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, who have kicked off their search to replace running backs coach Keith Carter. 

1. $30 million man. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is in line to become the NFL’s first $30 million a year man. 

“It’s quite possible,” Joel Corry, CBS Sports NFL business analyst told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “Kirk Cousins might beat him to it, if he’s an unrestricted free agent.”

The five-year $137.5 million deal that unproven Jimmy Garoppolo recently signed with the 49ers has changed the market place for quarterbacks. 

“Also, Aaron Rodgers is probably going to get a new contract this year,” said Corry, a former NFL agent who holds an economics degree from Emory (Class of 1989). “Their timetable in Green Bay has always been when he’s had two years left on his deal, which is right now. Ryan should have Kirk Cousins as a floor because I’m assuming Kirk Cousins will come in ahead of Garoppolo. That will set a new standard.”

Garoppolo’s deal averages $27.5 million per year. 

The former Eastern Illinois signal-caller, who was a late add to the 2014 Senior Bowl, was drafted in the second round by the Patriots. He played in 18 games and made two starts before being trading to the 49ers last season. He made five starts for the 49ers and has an overall 7-0 record as a starter.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch was comfortable, based on five starts with the team, to give him a hefty market-value contract. 

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said that he wants Ryan to do a team-friendly deal that would allow them flexability to keep the team around the franchise quarterback in place. Tom Condon, Ryan’s agent, has not responded to phone calls and emails requesting an interview. 

“That’s an interesting negotiation tactic by Arthur Blank, trying to guilt Matt Ryan publicly into taking less money,” Corry said. “He’s represented by Tom Condon who doesn’t have the words ‘hometown discount’ in his vocabulary. If Tom Condon is the one guiding the ship as opposed to Matt Ryan directing him on what to do, you’ve got a snow ball’s chance in hell of him coming in for less than Jimmy Garoppolo.” 

Then, there’s the matter of Cousins’ new deal. The Redskins are expected to release him after trading for Alex Smith and giving him a five-year, $111 million deal on Jan. 30. 

“Kirk Cousins has never won a playoff game,” Corry said. “Matt Ryan is (a former) MVP. He has taken a team to the Super Bowl. Won multiple playoff games. As long as Matt Ryan doesn’t tell Tom Condon to leave money on the table … if the Falcons want a deal done, they are going to have to pay the going rate for a high-caliber quarterback.”

When the Falcons strike a deal with Ryan, they can lower his cap number by $7 million to $10 million, depending on how the deal is structured. He currently has a $19.25 million salary cap number for 2018, which is the final year of six-year $103.75 million he signed in 2013. 

“(How much cap room the Falcons clear) will depend on whether they are going to employ that signing bonus/option bonus concept that they did with the deal that he’s under right now and that they did with Desmond Trufant’s deal,” Corry said. “That will give them more cap room than just a pure signing bonus.

“If even if they decided to give him a record signing bonus ahead of his buddy Matthew Stafford, who also has Tom Condon as an agent, they could pick up anywhere from $7 million to $7.5 million in cap room. 

“Say it’s $52.5 to $55 million signing bonus, he’s got a $19.25 million base salary. Lower the base to $1.5 million and add at least four new years, stretch the signing bonus out over five years, you should get at least $7 million in cap room that way. 

“It will be more if they go the signing-bonus/option-bonus route because the option bonus is really like a signing bonus in the second year, so they wouldn’t have as much prorated the first time around. So (the cap savings) could be over $10 million.”

Signing Ryan to a market value contract would hurt down the road. 

“Your bigger issues are going to come from the fact that you’ve got a bunch of young defensive players on rookie contracts,” Corry said. “You’re going to have to decide which ones to pay.”

This offseason, the Falcons may not be able to retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

“Even with Poe, Grady Jarrett is going into a contract year,” Corry said. “Poe is going to try to get the going rate for a run-stuffer which is $10 (million), $11 (million) to $12 million per year. Can you really do that and also pay Grady Jarrett? There may be a choice between the two.”

Now, you see why Blank was banging the table for a Falcons-friendly deal. 

“They are going to have to do something,” Corry said. “It’s going to be hard. Philadelphia has two expensive defensive tackles (Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan), but they also have a cheap quarterback, which the Falcons haven’t had since Ryan came in under the old system.”

2. Riggs to Atlanta Hall of Fame. Former Falcons running back Gerald Rings will be among five players and coaches inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame on Friday. 

Riggs, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 6,631 yards, went into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2013. 

Joining Riggs in the 2018 induction will be former Braves outfielder Andruw Jones, Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, former Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton and former Georgia Tech basketball coach Whack Hyder.

This year’s induction class will raise the number of Atlanta Sports Hall of Famers to 74. Previous honorees include Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox and Dominique Wilkins.

The induction ceremony will take place at the Emory Conference Center Hotel in Atlanta.

3. Beathard’s Falcons past. Bobby Beathard, was was recently voted to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, worked for the Falcons as a scout from 1968-71. 

He was hired as a senior adviser to new Falcons owner Arthur Blank in 2003 and stayed through 2004 after being persuaded to come out of retirement. 

Here’s an March 3, 2003 story from Matt Winkeljohn about Beathard’s second-stint with the Falcons:

After 39 years working in the NFL, Bobby Beathard keeps trying to retire. But Falcons owner Arthur Blank, persuasive man that he can be, won't let him.

Beathard has decided to extend his working agreement with the Falcons, agreeing to work through May 2004 as the senior adviser to Blank, but he had plenty of coaxing.

"It's been an unbelievable experience working with Arthur," Beathard said. "I get a lot of calls from people around the league telling me how lucky I am. They're right."

In a distinguished career in scouting and NFL management, Beathard has gone to the Super Bowl seven times, winning four. Blank somewhat jokingly suggested that Beathard, 66, won't leave until he adds the Falcons to the list.

Beathard counsels not only Blank, but others in the organization on matters such as player personnel, contracts, salary cap management and more.

"He does his thing, and then he's gone and doesn't want credit," said Blank. "In a sense, it's like he's retired, because one minute you see him, and then he's out on his bike or something."

Beathard continues to say he has no interest in becoming the Falcons' general manager.

"I still consider myself retired in the sense that I don't feel any pressure here," said Beathard, who commutes occasionally to his home in San Diego. "The truth is I'm not the GM and don't want to be the GM. That's probably why it's been a lot of fun."

Beathard's presence may mean there will be no heightened sense of urgency to hire a GM, although Blank said that is still his goal.

"This will not change our search," Blank said.

4. Straight cash homey. After once pretending to pull his pants down as part of a touchdown celebration, Randy Moss is set to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. He was fined $10,000 for the incident. A Minnesota reporter wanted to know how he paid and Moss said, “Straight cash, homey.”

When Moss came to Flowery Branch with the Patriots for a duel practice, he wasn’t interested in talking to the media. I eased up too him after practice and asked, “Are you going to show the ATL some media love?”

He looked up, which gloves dangling from his helmet and said, “Nah, brother.” 

We both kept it moving.

Now, he’s in the media and can’t stop talking. 

5. Next Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Next year, former Georgia great Champ Bailey, former Chiefs-Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and Baltimore safety Ed Reed will be first-year candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

6. PFF’s Top 101 list. The Falcons had four players on Pro Football Focus’ top 101 list in wide receiver Julio Jones (15), middle linebacker Deion Jones (35), center Alex Mack (49) and Ryan (58).

7. Running backs coach search is under way. The Falcons have started their search to replace running backs coach Keith Carter, who left to join the Titans coaching staff.

The Falcons are looking for a more experienced coach, who can help the offense grow under coordinator Steve Sarkisian. 

Currently, Titans’ former running backs coach Sylvester Croom, who’s coached running backs for 23 years in the NFL is available. 

Titans’ former offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, who’s still widely respected, is also available. He coached the wide receivers during his previous stint with the Falcons, but played running back in the NFL and LSU and has coached running backs.

He also talking to the Bills, according to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News.

Also, former Falcons running backs coach Gerald Brown is available.

8. Falcons University Business Development Program. The franchise, looking to help the players plan for the post-NFL careers, will hold the Falcons University Business Development Program, a comprehensive business seminar Feb. 22-23.

The event will be designed to provide players with an opportunity to interact and be exposed to some of Atlanta’s top business companies. 

The first portion of this two-day business seminar will be hosted at NCRs World Headquarters Campus. Speakers include Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank, Falcons president and chief executive officers McKay, NCR’s chairman and chief operating officer Bill Nuti, Harry Norman Realtors’ president and chief executive officers Jenni Bonura, Zaxby’s franchisee Fred Weir and Georgia Tech’s athletic director Todd Stansbury.

The final day each player will participate in a one-day shadow opportunity of their choice.

Matt Bosher, Matt Bryant, Jack Crawford, Jamil Douglas, Ben Garland, Garrett Grayson, Justin Hardy, Josh Harris, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Dontari Poe, Brian Poole, Andre Roberts, Matt Ryan, Wes Schweitzer, Sean Weatherspoon, Nick Williams and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are all confirmed for the event. 

9. Cheerleader tryouts. Auditions for the Falcons’ 2018 cheerleader squad are set for April 8. 


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.