Falcons Rumors

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/31/23

Minor transactions heading into the weekend:

Atlanta Falcons

Tennessee Titans


Levin, despite having had contracts with five teams, returns to the only team he’s appeared in games with. Since being drafted by the Titans in the sixth round of 2018, he’s appeared in 45 games, starting four total. Three of those starts came last year. The team waived him ten days ago but, ultimately, found a way to keep Levin under contract.

Falcons Sign DL Calais Campbell

MARCH 31: The Falcons will give the 16th-year veteran $7MM fully guaranteed, Rapoport tweets. This deal can max out at $9MM through incentives. Although Campbell is going into his age-37 season, he will receive more to sign compared to what the Ravens gave him in 2022. Baltimore’s most recent Campbell pact was a two-year, $12MM deal that featured $6MM guaranteed.

MARCH 29: Following his Falcons meeting, Calais Campbell engaged in discussions with other teams. But the veteran defensive lineman will end up in Atlanta. The Falcons agreed to terms with Campbell on a one-year deal Wednesday morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

The Ravens made Campbell a cap casualty ahead of free agency, and while the sides did not rule out a return at a reduced rate, the 15-year veteran generated interest from the Bills, Jets and Jaguars. Despite those teams’ 2023 contention prospects appearing to outflank the Falcons’, Campbell agreed to join the retooling defense.

The former Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner spoke at length with Arthur Blank before making his decision, and Rapoport adds discussions regarding leadership and Campbell’s potential impact in the community played a significant role in his agreement with the team (Twitter link). The Jets made a strong offer, Campbell said (via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, on Twitter), but the accomplished pass rusher alluded to the off-field component of an Atlanta agreement — along with the on-field fit, naturally — as a factor that drove this agreement past the goal line.

This will be Campbell’s fourth NFL destination, coming after productive stints in Arizona, Jacksonville and Baltimore. On the field, the 6-foot-8 defender will team with Grady Jarrett and ex-Ryan Nielsen Saints charge David Onyemata. The Falcons have added a few pieces on defense since the legal tampering period began. Campbell joins Onyemata, Jessie Bates and Mike Hughes in agreeing to terms to aid a defense that ranked 27th last season. Longtime Bears starter Eddie Goldman is also back in the fold, preparing to make an attempt to come out of retirement.

Campbell, who will turn 37 before Week 1, started all 14 games be played for the Ravens last season. The interior D-line standout/kick-blocking specialist totaled 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in 2022. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Falcons use their talent influx up front in 2023. The team struggled to generate pressure last season, recording just 21 sacks. Jarrett contributed six of those.

For his career, Campbell is sitting on 99 sacks. He registered 14.5 of those with the Jaguars in 2017, helping to drive a rebuilding team to the Super Bowl LII precipice to complete one of the more impactful seasons by a defensive free agency addition. Campbell earned first-team All-Pro honors after his first Jaguars season, which ended in the AFC championship game. The ex-Cardinals second-round pick has continued to churn out quality seasons into his mid-30s. The Denver native has added three more Pro Bowl invites since leading the “Sacksonville” defense.

The Jets would have paired Campbell with Quinnen Williams inside. The team, which is gearing up for a potential Super Bowl push around expected trade acquisition Aaron Rodgers, has added some pieces — including ex-Ravens safety Chuck Clark — this offseason. But New York lost D-tackles Sheldon Rankins (Texans) and Nathan Shepherd (Saints). Solomon Thomas is back in the fold, however.

Campbell, who has never missed more than four games in a season, continuing his run of durability in Atlanta would move him further into rarefied air among defensive linemen. His 208 career starts are tied with Rams icon Merlin Olsen for eighth-most by a D-lineman in NFL history. By starting nine more games, Campbell can climb into the top five in league annals at the position. He can pass Olsen, fellow Hall of Famers Alan Page and Carl Eller, along with Justin Smith and Kevin Carter, by making 12 starts in 2023.

Falcons, WR Scotty Miller Agree To Deal

Making the opposite move of Russell Gage, Scotty Miller will venture from the Buccaneers to the Falcons. Atlanta is adding the former Tampa Bay wide receiver on a one-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

A former Bucs sixth-round pick, Miller played out his rookie contract with the team last season. Miller will join Mack Hollins as offseason Falcons receiver additions.

Miller made steady contributions to the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV-winning team two years ago but did not factor into the team’s final two Tom Brady-piloted passing attacks much. The diminutive speedster has totaled just 223 receiving yards, along with no touchdowns, since 2021. Miller will aim to bounce back in Atlanta.

In 2020, however, the Bowling Green alum worked alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to give Brady a nice receiving trio. Miller caught 33 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns that year. He eclipsed 70 receiving yards four times from Week 1 to Week 7. But the Bucs’ about-face on Antonio Brown led to Miller’s role being reduced. Although Miller’s first-half-ending deep TD grab helped the Bucs hold off the Packers in the 2020 NFC championship game, he never could bounce back as a steady target after Brown’s arrival.

A severe turf toe bout limited Miller to nine games in 2021, and the team’s offensive freefall last season did not leave much room for non-Evans or Godwin options to display much. Gage’s $10MM-per-year deal to come over from Atlanta and replace Brown lowered Miller’s ceiling as well.

The Falcons have added Hollins and Miller to complement Drake London. The team tendered Olamide Zaccheaus as an RFA last year but has not re-signed the Thomas Dimitroff-era investment. Hollins signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal; it is unlikely Miller’s pact matches that number.

Falcons Plan To Keep Desmond Ridder As Starting QB

Desmond Ridder supplanted Marcus Mariota as the Falcons’ starting quarterback late last season, and although pronouncements about Week 1 roles in March should not be considered full-fledged endorsements, it is clear the 2022 third-round pick will enter offseason workouts ahead of Taylor Heinicke for the gig.

Arthur Smith said Tuesday, “The plan is to start Desmond.” GM Terry Fontenot had previously communicated this plan to Ridder, who made four starts as a rookie after being last year’s No. 74 overall pick. Arthur Blank stopped short of endorsing the Cincinnati product as the Falcons’ 2023 starter in February, but the team has taken a step forward here in the weeks since.

The Falcons subsequently signed Heinicke to a deal that topped the other backup QBs’ money — for average annual value — but the ex-Washington starter’s two-year, $14MM deal will not lead to an open competition with Ridder this offseason.

We’re very excited to have Taylor in the room, a guy with experience who has won games in this league,” Smith said, via AtlantaFalcons.com’s Scott Bair. “The chemistry in the quarterback room is important, as we expect Desmond to take the next step. But we also have a guy who can go in and win you football games and be ready to play.”

Heinicke has 25 regular-season starts under his belt, along with a playoff outing two years ago. He completed 64% of his passes with Washington, at 7.0 per toss, and went 12-12-1 as the team’s starter. The Commanders gave Carson Wentz his job back in December but installed Sam Howell as their starter for Week 18. The team expressed interest in re-signing Heinicke, but he said he chose a better Falcons offer, Josh Kendall of The Athletic tweets. Atlanta gave Heinicke $6.32MM fully guaranteed. Ridder completed 64% of his throws as well — at just 6.2 yards per attempt — but obviously does not have an extensive NFL sample size to judge.

Smith’s declaration affects Heinicke at present, and the former starter has said he is OK being Atlanta’s backup (Twitter link via Kendall). the Falcons have been connected to both Lamar Jackson and a potential first-round investment at the position. The team will meet with Florida’s Anthony Richardson soon and likely will host other top-flight QB prospects during the pre-draft process. The Falcons have not drafted a quarterback in the first or second rounds since their Matt Ryan pick (No. 3 overall) in 2008. They have only drafted two (Ridder and 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree) since the Ryan pick.

As Fontenot and Smith go into Year 3 in charge, signing off on a Ridder-Heinicke QB depth chart when Jackson is available will likely not go over well with some Falcons fans. But the Falcons have not been connected to the disgruntled Ravens superstar, who is aiming for either a fully guaranteed contract or a deal that enters the Deshaun Watson guarantee neighborhood ($230MM). The Falcons were believed to have finished second for Watson last year; the guarantee led to Blank’s team standing down.

Being prepared to trade three first-round picks and change for Watson and then passing on Jackson altogether would certainly make for an interesting path, but as of Tuesday, that is the organization’s plan. Arriving just after the Browns pried Watson from the Falcons’ grasp, Ridder is now the NFC South team’s centerpiece player.

Draft Rumors: Commanders, Texans, Bears, Titans, Panthers, Raiders, Falcons

Reported as a team not interested in Lamar Jackson, the Commanders are indeed going in another direction at quarterback. Ron Rivera confirmed Tuesday his team will not pursue the dual-threat superstar and, via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, never considered doing so (Twitter link).

It was something we feel didn’t suit what we want to do,” Rivera said. “We know he’s a tremendous player. I just didn’t think that was the direction we wanted to go.

Washington, however, will likely be hosting other quarterbacks during the pre-draft process. The team will not rule out taking a QB in Round 1, Rivera said Tuesday (Twitter link). The Commanders hold the No. 16 overall pick; they will almost definitely need to complete a vault up the draft board to land one of the top four QBs. The Panthers will take a quarterback first overall, while the Texans, Colts, Seahawks, Raiders, Falcons and Titans — each a QB suitor or a team that would make sense as such — sit ahead of them. The Commanders passed on trading up for Justin Fields or Mac Jones two years ago and had Carson Wentz in place in 2022, tabling draft matters at the position.

Here is the latest from the draft circuit:

  • The Texans have already brought in Will Levis and Anthony Richardson for pre-draft visits, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Houston will also host Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud on “30” visits soon. On track to draft a first-round quarterback for the first time since Deshaun Watson in 2017, the Texans should be expected to consider the top four options. Their Week 18 win in Indianapolis, however, allowed the Bears to leapfrog them for the draft’s top slot. The Panthers now hold that pick and will have first dibs on this year’s QB crop.
  • Before making their trade with the Panthers, the Bears discussed trading back with the Texans — as part of a multi-trade effort to accumulate picks — Ryan Poles said recently (via NBC Sports’ Peter King). That scenario would have had the Bears trading from No. 1 to 2 to 9, putting the Texans at first overall and the Panthers at No. 2, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes negotiations with the Texans dragged while Panthers talks accelerated. Poles said his relationship with Panthers GM Scott Fitterer, dating back to duo’s days as scouts, helped the process. Giving Fields a chance to grow with a new regime, the Bears now hold the No. 9 overall pick this year.
  • At least five teams will meet with Richardson before the draft. The Panthers, Colts, Raiders, Falcons and Titans will get together with the Florida-developed passer, Cameron Wolfe of NFL.com tweets. Each team holds a top-11 pick, and it can be considered a lock reps from each will be on-hand at Richardson’s pro day Thursday in Gainesville.
  • Titans GM Ran Carthon, HC Mike Vrabel and assistant GM Chad Brinker were among the seven Tennessee staffers at Stroud’s pro day last week, The Athletic’s John Rexrode notes (subscription required). The Panthers topped that, sending a whopping 14 staffers to Columbus for Stroud’s throwing event. Stroud met with the Panthers, Raiders, Seahawks and Titans, Breer adds. Carthon and Vrabel, however, were also at Levis’ pro day last week, Breer tweets. Pete Carroll and John Schneider went to Kentucky to represent the Seahawks for that event, too. Carthon also attended Young’s pro day. While the new Tennessee GM gave some support for four-year Titans starter Ryan Tannehill, it was far from a full-fledged endorsement.
  • Josh McDaniels said the Raiders are open to taking a QB at No. 7 overall, despite signing Jimmy Garoppolo, and The Athletic’s Vic Tafur notes he and GM Dave Ziegler observed Stroud and Young’s pro days. In addition to the Raiders meeting with Levis before his pro day, Tafur adds the Kentucky QB will visit Las Vegas soon. McDaniels did not rule out the Raiders adding a veteran backup as well; Jarrett Stidham left for a two-year, $10MM Broncos deal. The team’s presence at pro days also could serve as a way to drive up trade interest in the No. 7 pick.

Falcons Re-Sign T Germain Ifedi

The Falcons have agreed to a new deal with veteran offensive tackle Germain Ifedi, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Ifedi signed a one-year deal to remain in Atlanta as a quality depth piece for the offensive line.

Ifedi signed with the Falcons last year at the end of a two-year stint in Chicago. Ifedi was coming off a knee injury that had landed him on injured reserve for most of his last season with the Bears. He had started 2021 as a starter in Chicago, but shortly after his return from IR, Ifedi found himself on the bench to end the season.

He picked up in Atlanta where he had left off in Chicago. Ifedi had started all 60 games he appeared in with his original team in Seattle at either right guard or right tackle. When he got to Atlanta, the Falcons had pretty much solidified their starters at both positions with Chris Lindstrom at guard and Kaleb McGary at tackle. Because of their presence, Ifedi found himself playing mostly on special teams and coming off the bench if playing on offense at all.

Lindstrom and McGary were both set to hit the free agent market after contract years, and both players had career seasons last year. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), McGary graded out as the fourth-best tackle in the NFL last year. While that’s hard to beat, Lindstrom did just that, not only grading as the league’s best guard in 2022 but ending the season with the highest offensive grade of any lineman in the NFL. This resulted in both players getting new contracts with McGary on a new three-year deal and Lindstrom signing a five-year extension.

With those two remaining in place, Ifedi is expected to reprise his role from last season. Expect Ifedi to provide the Falcons with a special teams lineman and an experienced veteran ready to fill in for Lindstrom or McGary at a moment’s notice.

WR Notes: Hopkins, Cardinals, Chiefs, Ridley, Browns, Slayton, Texans, Dolphins

The Brandin Cooks trade domino dropped Sunday morning, leaving DeAndre Hopkins as the only clear-cut impact receiver trade chip available. The Cardinals continue to shop the 11th-year veteran, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes talks are ramping up (Twitter link). Hopkins is amenable to adjusting his contract to facilitate a deal, and Rapoport adds an adjusted contract is likely. As is, Hopkins’ through-2024 contract calls for a $19.45MM base salary this season. That will likely be untenable to interested teams.

As far as interested parties go, the Chiefs are viewed as a team angling to acquire a veteran. Whether it is Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr., veteran NFL reporter Mike Jurecki adds (on Twitter) Kansas City is on the market for an addition. With JuJu Smith-Schuster signing with the Patriots, it is unsurprising the defending champions are interested in upgrading. Mecole Hardman remains a free agent, and while the Chiefs were expected to move on from the speedster, his price range may have dropped considering his extended stay in free agency. Patrick Mahomesrestructure created $9.6MM in cap space for the Chiefs, though they sit at just more than $9MM as of Tuesday.

Staying on the Hopkins front, here is the latest from the receiver scene:

  • The Browns are not believed to be interested in reuniting Hopkins with Deshaun Watson, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets. Cleveland has a big contract at receiver (Amari Cooper‘s) already, though the team could benefit from a veteran presence alongside its No. 1 target. The Browns did host Marquise Goodwin on a visit that has spanned from Monday to today, Anderson adds (on Twitter). Goodwin spent last season with the Seahawks, catching 27 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns. The former Olympic long jumper is going into his age-33 season.
  • Darius Slayton is back with the Giants, re-signing on a two-year deal worth $12MM. That contract includes $4.9MM guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets. This can be treated more like a one-year deal; the Giants can save $6MM by cutting Slayton in 2024. That said, Slayton said (via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy) he received other offers in free agency. The Giants, despite burying him on their initial 2022 depth chart and cutting his pay, reached out early and will have the former fifth-round pick back in the fold. The team’s improvement last season helped convince Slayton to stay.
  • A year after he signed for the exact terms Slayton reached (with the Jets), Braxton Berrios is now in Miami. The ex-Hurricanes receiver agreed to terms with the Dolphins on what KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes is a one-year, $3.5MM pact (Twitter link). Berrios will receive $3MM guaranteed, giving him a good chance of being part of the Dolphins’ 53-man roster. The Dolphins still have Cedrick Wilson and brought back River Cracraft and Freddie Swain last week.
  • Noah Brown‘s one-year Texans deal is worth $2.6MM, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The longtime Cowboys wideout received $2.25MM guaranteed and can add an additional $500K through incentives.
  • Addressing his season-long gambling suspension recently, Calvin Ridley said he deposited $1,500 into an unspecified betting app and, after making approximately $200 worth of NBA bets, he included the Falcons in a parlay. Denying he had inside information, Ridley said (via a piece on The Players’ Tribune) he had been away from the Falcons for a month, was not talking to anyone on the team and made the bet to root for his teammates. Regarding Ridley’s midseason Falcons exit in 2021, the former first-round pick said he was dealing with depression and anxiety. Ridley said he played most of the 2020 season (a career-high 1,374-yard slate) on a broken foot, but he was not informed of the break until June 2021. He underwent surgery, which was described as a minor procedure, but said he was not close to 100% by Week 1. This and Ridley’s house being robbed on that Week 1 Sunday intensified his anxiety. The NFL reinstated Ridley, now with the Jaguars, earlier this month.

Calais Campbell To Meet With Falcons

Linked again to retirement, Calais Campbell said earlier this offseason he will play a 16th NFL season. After the Ravens released the accomplished defensive lineman, he could need to find a fourth team.

The Falcons will display their interest via a free agent visit, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Ravens have not closed the door on Campbell coming back at a reduced rate, but the former Cardinals and Jaguars defensive lineman will go forward with a Falcons meeting.

Campbell, who will turn 37 just before Week 1, spent the past three seasons with the Ravens and has continued to produce despite being one of the league’s oldest players. The 2008 second-rounder totaled 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Ravens last season, remaining a D-line regular. Campbell started all 14 games he played and has seen action on more than 60% of Baltimore’s defensive plays in each of the past two seasons.

The Jaguars’ Campbell signing in 2017 became one of the most impactful defensive free agency additions in recent years, with the former Cardinals starter/kick-blocking extraordinaire earning All-Pro honors — after a 14.5-sack season — and powering the Jags’ defense to the top of the league. Jacksonville gave New England a scare in that year’s AFC championship game, but the team steadily dismantled that “Sacksonville” defense. That effort led Campbell to Baltimore in 2020.

Campbell coming back for the 2023 season will move him further into rarefied air among defensive linemen. The durable Denver native is currently tied with Rams icon Merlin Olsen for eighth all time for starts by a defensive lineman (208). By starting just nine more games, Campbell can climb into the top five in NFL history at the position. He can pass Olsen, fellow Hall of Famers Alan Page and Carl Eller, along with Justin Smith and Kevin Carter, by making 12 starts this season. A 12-start 2023 would leave Campbell fourth in NFL annals. Campbell also has 99 career sacks; more seasons will drive an increasingly valid Hall of Fame case.

Atlanta has been busy in bolstering its defense this offseason. New DC Ryan Nielsen brought two Saints — defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss — with him to Georgia. Cornerback Mike Hughes joined high-priced safety Jessie Bates as secondary additions as well. And the team received word D-tackle Eddie Goldman will also be attempting a comeback. Goldman signed with the Falcons last summer but landed on their reserve/retired list soon after. The team has Grady Jarrett coming back for a ninth season anchoring its interior D-line as well.

Campbell has said he wants to land with a contender. Having played in Super Bowl XLIII (a Cardinals loss to the Steelers) and three conference championship games, that makes sense. The Falcons do not resemble a surefire contender presently, given their quarterback situation and sub-.500 showings in 2021 and ’22, but Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot are going into their third years. The organization will be more committed to producing a winning team next season. Campbell would certainly be an interesting piece to this puzzle.

Falcons Reinstate DT Eddie Goldman From Reserve/Retired List

Eddie Goldman looks to be attempting a comeback. The longtime Bears nose tackle landed on the Falcons’ reserve/retired list shortly after signing with Atlanta last year, but he is now back on the team’s active roster.

The Falcons reinstated Goldman from the retired list Tuesday, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com tweets. Goldman signed a one-year deal worth $1.3MM with the Falcons last summer. But he had played three seasons on a lucrative Bears extension and exercised his right to opt out due to COVID-19 concerns in 2020.

It cannot be assumed Goldman, 29, will be part of the Falcons’ 53-man roster next season. But he is back on Atlanta’s 90-man offseason roster. The former second-round pick operated as the Bears’ starting nose tackle throughout Vic Fangio‘s time with the team and continued to do so following the acclaimed DC’s exit. Former Bears GM Ryan Pace, who made Goldman his second draft choice upon taking that job back in 2015, also remains in the Falcons’ front office.

Goldman started for a No. 1-ranked Bears defense in 2018. That unit, which featured accomplished veterans at most spots, helped snap an eight-season Bears playoff drought. More pivotal to Goldman’s path, the Bears took care of him shortly before that season commenced. Goldman signed a four-year, $42MM extension during the 2018 offseason. That deal came with $25MM guaranteed. Will he end up playing on the bottom-end deal the Falcons authorized last year?

Atlanta is transitioning to Ryan Nielsen‘s defense. The six-year Saints staffer has added ex-charge David Onyemata to his defensive tackle group. With Onyemata joining Grady Jarrett, there would not appear a path — barring injury — to Goldman starting inside. Nielsen has not committed fully to installing a 4-3 defense in Atlanta; Goldman played exclusively in 3-4 schemes in Chicago. But the team is inexperienced up front beyond these two veterans. Goldman has made 73 career starts.