Atlanta Falcons Rumors & News

Jake Long Announces Retirement

Offensive tackle Jake Long has announced his retirement from the NFL. In a message posted on Twitter, the former No. 1 overall pick thanked his family, fans, and NFL mentors for their belief in him along the way. Jake Long

Long dealt with injuries throughout his career and never truly fulfilled his potential as a result. Long started out with four consecutive Pro Bowl nods in his first four seasons with the Dolphins (including one First Team All-Pro nod in 2010), but his health slowly chipped him down. From 2012 through 2016, Long missed 38 regular season games.

After a lengthy career which included two ACL tears and one Achilles tear, one can hardly blame Long for hanging ’em up. Just prior to his 32nd birthday, Long has opted to spend more time with his family than try to hook on with another team for yet another one year deal. We here at PFR wish Long the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Notes: Mixon, Freeney, Coleman

The Falcons are not interested in drafting running back Joe Mixon, and have removed him from their draft board given his prior assault charge, according to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta becomes the third known to team to have ruled out Mixon, joining Miami and New England. Like the Dolphins and Patriots, though, the Falcons don’t necessarily need a player of Mixon’s caliber given the level of talent on their roster. In Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Atlanta already boasts one of the better backfield tandems in the league, and can easily make the decision to avoid the headache of adding Mixon.

Here’s more from Atlanta:

  • Although veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney is likely to continue his career in 2017, the Falcons won’t decide whether to offer him a new contract until after the draft, per Schultz. Freeney, 37, probably wouldn’t have been participated in Atlanta’s spring workout sessions, so the club doesn’t feel the need to hurry into an offer. Last season, Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. He’s PFR’s No. 1 free agent edge defender. At present, Atlanta’s defensive end depth chart includes Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, Courtney Upshaw, Brooks Reed, and Jack Crawford, while the club could also select another pass rusher in the draft.
  • A long-term extension with Freeman is also on the back burner, reports Schultz, and the Falcons don’t expect to begin contract discussions until the start of training camp. Negotiations could also bleed into the regular season. Freeman, 25, is scheduled to earn $1.797MM in 2017, and was at one point reportedly looking for “elite” running back money. While Freeman and his agent have since walked back those comments, Freeman is surely still hunting for a hefty deal after combining for 2,100-plus rushing yards, 27 touchdowns (22 on the ground, five receiving) and 127 catches from 2015-16.
  • The Falcons could have interest in trading up from the No. 31 pick, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution“To move up in the 20s, there will be opportunities there,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “There are some interesting candidates that will be around there in the early parts of the 20s.” Atlanta could target a number of positions of Day 1 of the draft, but edge rusher or guard seem to be the club’s clearest need areas. In PFR’s first 2017 mock draft, I sent UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley to the Falcons at the end of the first round.
  • In case you missed it, the Falcons plan to exercise left tackle Jake Matthews‘ 2018 fifth-year option. The former No. 6 overall pick had a decent showing last year, earning a 74.3 overall score on Pro Football Focus. That mark left Mathews ranked No. 37 among all tackles, putting him in the middle of the pack out of 78 qualified players. He’ll earn roughly $12.81MM in 2018, but that figure is guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year.

Pauline: Falcons Floor For Forrest Lamp

As for Lamp, Pauline hears the lowest he will drop will be the Falcons at No. 31. Atlanta lost Chris Chester to retirement to open a spot opposite Andy Levitre up front.

Taylor Gabriel Signs RFA Tender

Taylor Gabriel will be back with the Falcons as they continue their offseason program. The wide receiver signed his RFA tender, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Barring a new contract, the fourth-year wideout will make $2.81MM on the second-round tender this season. Gabriel figures to again be a key part of Atlanta’s passing attack, one that dazzled last season under Kyle Shanahan‘s guidance.

Gabriel turned in a second season of quality complementary work, with his 579-yard showing in 2016 representing the second-most of his career. Shanahan’s one year in Cleveland helped the then-rookie target to a 621-yard campaign in 2014. The six receiving touchdowns last season, though, were far and away Gabriel’s career high.

He’s yet to excel outside of Shanahan’s stewardship, though, so 2017 figures to be a critical year for the 5-foot-8 performer as he makes a case for long-term employment in Atlanta or elsewhere as a free agent. The 26-year-old receiver stands to be a UFA in 2018. For now, he’ll return to his post alongside Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu after rewarding the Falcons for their prescient preseason waiver claim.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Panthers, McCaffrey, Redskins

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman believes that there are “half a dozen” three down backs to be had in this year’s draft and estimated that RB is one of the strongest groups, along with defensive end and secondary positions (link via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer). When talking to reporters today, the GM was asked he considers Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey to be one of those six players.

He can run it. He can catch it. I guess that’s three downs. [McCaffrey] has certainly shown he can carry the load at Stanford,” the GM said.

There has been lots of talk about Carolina targeting a running back at No. 8 overall. Leonard Fournette has been the popular prognostication for the Panthers there, but McCaffrey might also be in the mix. Then again, if Gettleman sees four other tailbacks as well-rounded players, then he might be willing to hold off on addressing the position. Beyond Fournette and McCaffrey, there are also standouts like FSU’s Dalvin Cook, Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman to consider.

Here’s the latest draft buzz:

  • The Redskins are smitten with Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter links) hears. Washington currently picks at No. 17 overall, so Miller believes that acquiring him would require the team to trade up.
  • USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson didn’t take a visit with the Patriots, but there’s been contact between the team and the player, Doug Kyed of NESN tweets. The Patriots may have to get back into the first round in order to get in the mix for him, however. As of this writing, the Pats’ first selection doesn’t come until the third round (No. 72 overall). Jackson rates as the 37th best player on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board and some draft analysts have him up even higher.
  • Two weeks ago, Falcons coach Dan Quinn put Mizzou’s Charles Harris and Kansas State’s Jordan Willis through a workout side-by-side (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).

Falcons To Exercise Jake Matthews’ Option

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff plans to exercise the fifth-year option on tackle Jake Matthews, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. For now, a new long-term deal is on the back burner. Jake Matthews (vertical)

The decision to exercise Matthews’ option was not necessarily a hard one for Atlanta. Since entering the league, Matthews has been on the field for all but one possible regular season game and he has improved since his rookie season in 2014. The former No. 6 overall pick had a decent showing last year, earning a 74.3 overall score on Pro Football Focus. That mark left him ranked No. 37 amongst all tackles, putting him in the middle of the pack out of 78 qualified players.

That might not be indicative of a superstar, but the Falcons believe that Matthews will continue to grow into an even better offensive lineman. It’s also worth considering that the potential ~$12.81MM cap hit for 2018 doesn’t seem exorbitant when juxtaposed with this year’s inflated free agent offensive line market.

The fifth-year option for first-round picks is guaranteed for injury only, so the Falcons will have an escape hatch if Matthews stays healthy and the two sides are unable to reach terms on a new deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Worked Out Charles Harris

Falcons Interested In Cam Robinson

  • Offensive tackle Cam Robinson, who was teammates with Foster at Alabama, is drawing significant interest from the Texans. Houston worked out Robinson earlier this month, and he’s now in town for a two-day visit that will include another workout, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). The tackle-needy Texans are in line to pick 25th overall, but Robinson could be gone by then. The Bengals, owners of the ninth overall selection, met with Robinson over the weekend, Rapoport adds. In the event Robinson falls to the end of the first round, the Falcons (No. 31) will be a team to keep an eye on, writes Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com.

Falcons Host Jordan Willis

Cowboys, Falcons, Bucs Eyeing Justin Evans

Texas A&M Justin Evans has a strong chance of being selected in the back end of the first round of the draft, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, and the Cowboys, Falcons, and Buccaneers are among the NFL teams with the most interest in the defensive back prospect.Justin Evans (Vertical)

Evans has met with both Dallas and Atlanta, per Pauline. The Cowboys saw a high percentage of their defensive secondary leave during the free agent period, and two of their top three safeties — Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox — signed multi-year deals with rival clubs. The Falcons, meanwhile, may view Evans as an improvement over incumbent defender Ricardo Allen, as Evans would give head coach Dan Quinn an Earl Thomas-esque defender, per Pauline. Dallas and Atlanta hold the No. 28 and No. 31 picks, respectively.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, likely won’t let Evans get past them in second round, where they own the No. 50 selection. Tampa Bay inked Wilcox last month, but could still use more depth in a safety group that was among the league’s worst in 2016. Chris Conte, Keith Tandy, and Ryan Smith comprise the remainder of the Bucs’ safety depth chart.

Evans has also met with the Dolphins during the predraft process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.