Nov 22, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons helmets on the bench during their game against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons GM adds to No. 4 pick mystery

If the Atlanta Falcons know what direction they are headed with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, they are not about to show their hand.

Offense? Defense? Trade?

All options are being considered, Falcons first-year general manager Terry Fontenot said.

Without a draft-day track record, trying to predict the route Fontenot will go has been a difficult task. He came to the Falcons in January after 17 years with the New Orleans Saints where he went from scout to director of pro scouting into his 2020 role of assistant general manager.

“We’ve gone through the different things that can happen,” Fontenot said Wednesday. “But you never know what is going to happen at that exact moment, but we know the players that we’re talking about.”

Fontenot said he is fairly confident how the first three picks in the draft will go. But he isn’t making it easy to predict pick No. 4.

” … Do we trade back compared to the player we could get at 4, or if we trade back, what would be the value?” he said. “So we have to weigh all those different variables and all those scenarios so we know the players that we’re talking about.”

With longtime quarterback Matt Ryan turning 36 next month and heading into his 14th season, the Falcons are interested in selecting a new face of the franchise soon. Quarterback options like Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance have been speculated as options Thursday.

But a 4-12 record last season and a last-place finish in the NFC South shows that multiple areas of the roster are in need of improvement.

“When you’re picking at 4, we’re trying to take an impact player,” Fontenot said. “Whether it’s a player that’s going to sit or a player that’s going to play right away, we want to bring in an impact player that fits the culture, that has the right makeup and that we have clear vision for that player.”

A quality quarterback is as impactful as it gets, but the Falcons might decide they aren’t in position to wait for a new signal caller to take over.

“We understand we have to add quarterbacks to the roster,” Fontenot said. “And there’s a lot of good ones and a lot of good options.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New Falcons coach excited to work with QB Matt Ryan

Taking over as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Smith knows one person he can rely on for stability: quarterback Matt Ryan.

After sparking quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s career as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans the past two seasons, Smith now gets to work with a former NFL Most Valuable Player at QB.

“(Matt) is a great leader and obviously there’s a lot of things he can do, but I don’t get into comparisons because we did something with Ryan,” Smith told AtlantaFalcons.com on Tuesday. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to do the same things with Matt.

“We’re going to play to Matt’s strengths just like we tried to play to Ryan’s strengths.”

Ryan, 35, is coming off a season in which he led the NFL in pass attempts (626) and completions (407) while throwing for 4,581 yards, which ranked fourth in the league. He fired 26 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

As for how the rest of the roster will shake out, Smith said, “We’re going to constantly look to innovate and adapt, regardless of who are personnel is,” Smith said. “We’re going to play to the strengths of the team, and we’re going to be flexible. But we’re going to do it in all three phases. And we’re going to have guys that are great teammates and understand how to adapt week to week. …

“We’re going to look for guys that are great teammates and we’re going to hold our best players accountable. And so whether that’s Matt or Grady Jarrett, they are all going to be held to the same standard.”

Smith will be part of a new power structure in Atlanta, teaming with newly hired general manager Terry Fontenot.

“We share the same vision,” Smith said. “We have the same values. Certainly, it won’t be groupthink, but Terry and I … it will be an ultimate partnership. It will be a great collaboration, a good partnership as we look to build this team for the short term and the long term.”

Fontenot, a former assistant GM with the New Orleans Saints, said his philosophy regarding the draft is to grab the best available player.

“It’s never a bad thing to add to a strength,” Fontenot said, according to AtlantaFalcons.com. “You want to get good football players, because it’s a long season. There’s a lot of injuries. A lot of things happen, there’s a lot of challenges.

“At any position, you want to continue to add competition, and you want to get the best players that fit the makeup standard, that fit the physical talent, that fit the skill set and we have a clear vision for what they’re going to be.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons hire Terry Fontenot as new GM

The Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday hired former New Orleans Saints vice president/assistant general manager of pro personnel Terry Fontenot as their new general manager.

Fontenot, 40, becomes the Falcons’ first Black general manager and replaces Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with head coach Dan Quinn in October after the Falcons posted an 0-5 start. Last week, Atlanta hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to replace Quinn. Dimitroff had been the Falcons’ GM since 2008.

“When we started this process, we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building,” Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank said in a statement. “We feel very strongly that we’ve found that individual in Terry Fontenot. In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgements that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout.”

Fontenot spent 18 years with the Saints, where he began his career as a marketing intern before moving into the scouting department. He held his most recent position for the past year.

“Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and honor the expectations they have with tremendous passion and dedication to competitive excellence,” added Blank.

“I have found the perfect opportunity for my family’s next steps,” Fontenot said in a statement. “I feel honored and thankful that Arthur Blank and (team president) Rich McKay have given me this privilege and I look forward to working alongside the two of them, Arthur Smith and our entire organization as we strive together to reach our competitive goals and give our fans the performances they deserve. My family and I are thrilled to make our new home in Atlanta and look forward to meeting our fellow Falcon fans.”

The Falcons, who finished the season 4-12, have reached the playoffs five times over the past 11 seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Atlanta led New England 28-3 midway through that game, but Tom Brady engineered a comeback that led to a 34-28 overtime win for the Patriots.

–Field Level Media