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. The offseason is about to pick up some steam with free agency set to start officially at 4 p.m. today. The Falcons are working on Matt Ryan’s contract extension and signing some of their own players. Enjoy!
1. Ryan’s big deal is coming. The quarterback market started to settle during the legal tampering period. The deals can be signed today at 4 p.m.
The big one for the Falcons was Drew Brees re-signing with the Saints reportedly a two-year, $50-million deal. Now, his agent, who also represents Matt Ryan, can finish his dealings with the franchise.
Both sides talked back at the NFL scouting combine and it’s expected to be a short negotiation that could end with a six-year extension in the $180 million range for Ryan, who’s arguably the best quarterback in franchise history. (Don’t want to disrespect to Steve Bartkowski!)
While guiding the Falcons to the playoffs six times and one Super Bowl, Ryan has completed 3,630 of 5,593 passes (64.9 percent) for 41,796 yards, 260 touchdowns and 126 interceptions. He has a career passer rating of 93.4. The attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns are all-time franchise records.
Ryan has been incredibly durable, starting all 16 games in 9 of 10 seasons. Only a wicked turf toe injury kept him out of two games in the 2009 season.
Ryan has rallied the Falcons to victory with 36 game-winning drives and has staged 27 fourth-quarter comebacks
Ryan, who turns 33 on May 17, has helped make the Falcons legitimate title contenders after being drafted with the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft.
The Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs fives since drafting Ryan and each time they were defeated by the team that went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, three times losing to the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Packers after the 2010 season, the Giants after the 2011 season and the Eagles last season.
Overall, Ryan has a 95-63 regular season record. He is 4-6 in 10 playoff games with one Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl LI.
2. Bryant’s deal. Kicker Matt Bryant’s contract looks like a one-year deal with the team holding options for 2019 and 2020. He could also pick up bonuses based on his field goal percentage and if the Falcons make the playoffs. The contract states, “Club may exercise 2019 option on or before 22nd day prior to first day of the 2019 league year.” The Falcons have a similar option for 2020.
3. Levitre’s deal. Left guard Any Levitre took a pure pay cut. His base salary was reduced for $7 million to $3.5 million with a $1 million roster bonus.
4. Draft workouts. The Falcons are working out Colorado cornerbacks Isaiah Oliver and Afolabi Laguda today.
5. Poe and Clayborn updates. Both of the Falcons defensive linemen appear set to hit the open market. Poe has been linked to the Redskins by the Washington Post, but there were no reports on Clayborn during the legal tampering period. Both are candidates to return once their market value is established. The Lions would seem like a fit for Poe.
6. Gabriel lands with Bears. Former Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel has agreed to a four-year contract with the Bears, according to multiple reports.
Gabriel, who played two seasons with the Falcons and was a key part to the team’s march to Super Bowl LI, can’t sign with his new team until the start of the NFL’s new business year on Wednesday.
Gabriel didn’t provide the same explosive plays last season as he did in 2016 and the Falcons elected not to re-sign him after a major drop off last season.
In 2016, Gabriel had 11 plays of 19 yards or more and five long touchdowns (76, 64, 47, 35 and 25 yards.) Last season, he had only one touchdown last season, which went for 40 yards, as he totaled 33 receptions for 378 yards. He only had four plays for 19 yards or more and trouble getting off the line of scrimmage.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he believes that either Reggie Davis or Marvin Hall will step forward to claim Gabriel’s old spot with a strong offseason.
7. Falcons signed reserves. The Falcons, sticking to their theme of addressing their internal roster and bypassing on free agency, re-signed backup cornerback Leon McFadden and reserve swing tackle Austin Pasztor to one-year contract extensions on Tuesday.
McFadden, 27, a former third-round pick out of San Diego State, is with his fourth team. He’s played in 34 games and made two starts. He was signed for depth at the position in Week 4 last season.
Pasztor, 27, a former starter in Cleveland, was signed during training camp last season to help back up starting tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. He was the fourth tackle behind the two starters and Ty Sambrailo.
Pasztor, who’s 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, has played in 65 games and made 43 starts, all with Cleveland and Jacksonville. He played in seven games last season receiving 33 snaps on special teams.
The also signed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson on Saturday.
8. Restricted tenders for Allen, Garland. The Falcons placed second-round tenders worth $2.9 million on restricted free agents free safety Ricardo Allen and guard Ben Garland on Monday.
Last season, Allen had 54 tackles (38 solo) with one interception, one tackle for loss, and one pass defense while starting 15 games at safety.
In three seasons with the team, Allen has played in 47 games with 46 starts and totaled 212 tackles, nine passes defensed, six interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack.
Garland, who also has played some defensive tackle, has seen action in 32 games with the Falcons since being signed in 2015.
Last season, he started in three games at guard, making his first career start in a Week 14 win over the Saints. This past season, Garland was the Falcons nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
9. Falcons free agency tracker. The Falcons, who need a fullback and a backup tight end, will not be major players in free agency, which is set to start at 4 p.m. today. The offseason focus is on getting Matt Ryan’s contract extension and taking care of their own players.
Here’s a look at the Falcons’ free agents:
Unrestricted free agents:
— Matt Bryant re-signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal. The Falcons have options to pick up the contract in 2019 and 2020.
— Defensive end Adrian Clayborn led the team in sacks with 10.5 (including the playoffs). He played 576 snaps, the third-highest total along the defensive line.
— Fullback Derrick Coleman played 268 snaps on special teams and led the team in special teams tackles with 15.
— Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, has agreed to a four-year deal with the Chicago Bears, didn’t provide the same explosive plays and will not be re-signed. Was a disappointment in second season with the team.
— Linebacker/safety Kemal Ishmael played 336 snaps on special teams and has value a reserve. Will test the market to see if someone thinks he’s more than a reserve.
— Cornerback Leon McFadden was a late-season add to provide depth. He was signed to a one-year extension on Tuesday.
— Offensive tackle Austin Pasztor was the backup swing tackle who was active for eight games. He was signed to a one-year extension on Tuesday.
— Defensive tackle Dontari Poe is headed for free agency where he’s expected to land a “lucrative deal,” according to general manager Thomas Dimitroff. He played 868 defensive snaps, the second highest on the team behind Jarrett’s 870. He also played eight snaps on offense. He’s been linked to Washington, but could fit in Detroit.
— Returner Andre Roberts was plagued by poor blocking. He’s expecting to become a free agent.
— Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin provided quality depth as a run-stuffer.
— Linebacker Jordan Tripp considered a solid special-teamer when healthy.
— Defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw plays the run well for a former linebacker. Has held up well in the trenches.
— Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was insurance last season for the young and inexperienced unit. He wants to continue playing.
— Wide receiver Nick Williams will likely end up in San Francisco. Quinn mentioned Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis as potential replacement for the Gabriel and Williams.
— Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has re-signed with the team.
Restricted free agents:
— Free safety Ricardo Allen received a second-round tender that is worth $2.9 million.
— Offensive lineman Ben Garland received a second-round tender that is worth $2.9 million. Team can keep him and continue to look to upgrade the guard position.
— Running back Terron Ward is a valuable reserve that the team has confidence in.
— Running back Terrence Magee provided additional insurance as the backs got injured over the course of the season. Zeke Sandhu, his agent, told the AJC he’s returning.
Exclusive-rights free agents:
— Safety Sharrod Neasman played 184 special teams snaps as a valuable reserve.
— Offensive lineman Jamil Douglas has potential at the interior positions.