Prior to the Browns coming in with their stunning offer, Deshaun Watson was speaking with veteran free agents about teaming up with the Falcons. Watson spoke with Leonard Fournette and Jarvis Landry about playing with him in Atlanta, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (ESPN+ link). By the evening of March 17, the Falcons believed they had won the Watson sweepstakes, Fowler adds, and the quarterback was attempting to upgrade the team’s pass-catching corps. Cleveland’s fully guaranteed $230MM proposal changed everything, and Landry is now a possibility to return to the Browns. The eight-year veteran wide receiver visited the Falcons previously, but the team’s outlook has changed considerably since. Fournette re-signed with the Bucs this week.
Watson is a Brown, and Matt Ryan is now a Colt, leaving the Falcons with a record dead-money total and a rebuild to orchestrate. “We’re taking it on the chin this year,” Falcons GM Terry Fontenot said of the $40MM Ryan cap hit (via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, on Twitter), but noted that the outlook will brighten in 2023. Here is the latest from the NFC South:
- Despite the Buccaneers bringing back William Gholston, Ndamukong Suh is likely still on the team’s radar. Suh has discussed a Tampa return with Bucs coaches, Fowler adds, viewing another year with the team as a good way to strengthen his Hall of Fame resume. The All-Decade defensive tackle has played with the Bucs for the past three seasons. Suh re-signed with Tampa Bay on March 24, 2021, and played for $9MM last season. The Bucs now have Vita Vea signed to a more lucrative deal, but the team is likely amenable to keeping Suh around, as it has continued to re-sign key vets.
- Logan Ryan spent the bulk of his pre-New York days as a cornerback, but Jason Licht said (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman, on Twitter) he will play safety for the Bucs. Licht said the Bucs pursued Ryan during his lengthy free agency bid in 2020; the Giants signed him late that summer and extended him before the 2020 season ended. Ryan became a Giants cap casualty earlier this month and will join a Bucs team that lost starting safety Jordan Whitehead to the Jets.
- The Panthers have struggled for years to lock down their left tackle position. They are still pursuing an answer here, per Fowler, who adds Carolina looked into Trent Brown‘s market. It does not appear Carolina wants to spent too much at the O-line’s most expensive position, with Fowler also noting the team viewed $10-$12MM per year as too rich for Brown, who re-signed with the Patriots for a deal that did not hit that price range. Brown’s deal is worth $6.5MM a year (base value). Panthers target Duane Brown remains on the market.
- The Falcons hosted former Bengals, Bills and Jets tight end Tyler Kroft on a visit recently, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Not known for his receiving prowess, Kroft has topped 200 receiving yards in just one of his seven seasons. The Falcons lost Kyle Pitts complement Hayden Hurst to the Bengals last week.
- Former QB T.J. Yates will shift from Falcons passing-game specialist to their wide receivers coach, while Mario Jeberaeel is the team’s new assistant offensive line coach. Formerly an Abilene Christian assistant, Jeberaeel joined the Falcons as an intern in 2021. Former Bengals cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson will join the Falcons and make an interesting transition, signing on as a senior offensive assistant. An ex-NFL cornerback, Jackson has coached in the NFL for 21 years but has done so consistently on the defensive side.