Jake Matthews

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Saints, Matthews

Panthers GM Scott Fitterer provided rare transparency about his team’s first-round decision ahead of last year’s draft, indicating the team was likely down to quarterback or left tackle at No. 6 overall. The pick became Ikem Ekwonu, and the non-Kenny Pickett QB contingent tumbled into the third round. Carolina scooped up one of those arms, Matt Corral, but he missed the season due to injury. With Sam Darnold ticketed for free agency, the Panthers face another offseason of QB questions.

Both Fitterer and assistant GM Dan Morgan spent much of the fall scouting the top four quarterbacks in the 2023 class in person, according Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). Some of these passers will be gone by the time the Panthers pick at No. 9. Mel Kiper Jr.’s first 2023 mock draft has Carolina, however, taking the fourth quarterback in this year’s class — Florida’s Anthony Richardson — in Round 1. The scouting missions to see Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis and the team’s long-running need at the position will connect it to a potential trade-up maneuver. The Bears, who traded up for Justin Fields after the Panthers passed on Stroud’s Ohio State predecessor two years ago, are open for business at No. 1. It remains to be seen which non-QB-needy teams from Nos. 2-8 will join them.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • The Saints are retaining offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael for what will be his 14th season in the role, but Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes they moved on from their second-longest-tenured offensive staffer. The Saints parted ways with Dan Roushar after 10 seasons. Roushar, 62, had held a number of key roles on New Orleans’ staff since 2013 — offensive line coach and running backs coach among them — but was working as the team’s run-game coordinator and tight ends coach over the past two seasons. The Saints ranked 18th and 19th on the ground, respectively, over the past two years. A former college OC, Roushar has only coached for the Saints at the NFL level.
  • As more details surface on Michael Thomasrecent restructure, the likelier it appears the Saints will release him. The former All-Pro’s reworked deal includes a $31MM roster bonus due on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, and Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football adds Thomas would collect a whopping $30MM if he is active for four games next season (Twitter link). So, if Thomas is on the Saints’ roster absent another restructure, he would collect a cool $61MM. That reality seems … unlikely to commence. If Thomas is designated as a post-June 1 cut, the Saints would only be tagged with $11MM-plus in dead money this year.
  • In more Saints restructure news, the team pushed back the void-year vesting dates for David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport. Both D-linemen’s contracts are now set to void March 14, as opposed to February 17, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That gives the team more time to negotiate extensions with each free agent-to-be, and GM Mickey Loomis said recently (via Underhill) the team is interested in re-signing both. Due to restructuring Davenport’s fifth-year option, the Saints would be tagged with $7.6MM in dead money absent an extension before March 14 — the final day of the 2022 league year. A $10.2MM bill would come if Onyemata is not extended by that date.
  • The Falcons created $4.2MM in 2023 cap space by doing another Jake Matthews restructure. The team accelerated $7MM of the left tackle’s 2023 roster bonus onto its 2022 payroll, Yates tweets. After eating considerable dead money over the past two years — much of it from the Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Deion Jones trades — the Falcons are set to hold the second-most cap space in the NFL — more than $56MM.

Falcons, Jake Matthews Agree To Extension

The Falcons and Jake Matthews have agreed to terms on a three-year extension (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The new pact furnishes the left tackle with $52.5MM over the first three years with an average of $18.5MM per annum. 

[RELATED: Falcons Restructure Ryan’s Contract]

The deal makes sense for both sides. Matthews picks up additional dollars and security while the Falcons gain some much-needed cap space. It’s a big step up for Matthews, who previously played on a five-year, $75MM contract. At the time, that deal made Matthews one of the three highest paid left tackles in the league. Now that the market has advanced, Matthews had to be taken to the next tier.

Matthews has a perfect attendance record across eight NFL seasons, save for one missed game as a rookie. Last year, the Texas A&M product finished with a 71.4 overall grade, per the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. However, in years past, he’s placed as one of the top-ranked LTs in the league.

The Falcons also gained some breathing room last week by restructuring Matt Ryan‘s contract. With help from their longtime quarterback, Atlanta gained an extra $12MM in cap space for 2022.

Contract Details: Falcons, Ryan, Eagles, Slay

Earlier this week, the Falcons restructured deals with Matt Ryan and others to carve out a bit of extra breathing room. Today, we got some additional details on that adjustment, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Here’s the breakdown: Ryan’s base pay for 2020 will go down from $8MM to $1.05MM. Meanwhile, tackle Jake Matthews will see his base number trimmed from $10.55MM to $3.55MM. In both cases, the difference was converted to a signing bonus. In effect, it doesn’t change much for either player, but it does allow the Falcons to kick the can down the road and spend more this year.

Here are more deetz from around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter:

Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews Restructure Deals

Up against the cap this offseason, the Falcons made three lower-level signings Sunday. They have also restructured a few contracts.

The Falcons restructured the deals of Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Allen Bailey, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. This marks an interesting move for Ryan, who restructured his deal at the end of last season. He was already set to have cap figures north of $39MM in 2021 and 2022.

Ryan was to comprise $24.1MM of Atlanta’s 2020 cap, while Matthews was to account for $16MM of it. Bailey’s two-year deal included a $5.9MM 2020 cap number.

The Falcons and Ryan agreed on a five-year, $150MM extension in May 2018. He is under contract through 2023. Prior to the revised figures from this latest restructure, Ryan’s 2023 cap number sat at $34MM. Signed to a five-year extension worth $72.5MM in July 2018, Matthews is also under contract through 2023. His next four cap numbers are north of $16MM, so it should be expected some of them will rise as a result of this adjustment.

Atlanta added Laquon Treadwell and offensive lineman Justin McCray on Sunday and also re-signed Blidi Wreh-Wilson. They added Todd Gurley on Friday and authorized a $16MM-AAV deal for Dante Fowler. Considering the Falcons’ minimal cap room, these Ryan and Matthews restructures were surely necessary to accommodate the Fowler pact. The Falcons also cut Desmond Trufant and Devonta Freeman to clear space.

Falcons Create Room For Julio Jones Deal

The Falcons are “very, very close” to an extension for Julio Jones, owner Arthur Blank tells Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com (on Twitter). Of course, this is roughly what we’ve been hearing all summer, but it’s worth noting since we are days away from the start of the season and it is coming directly from the owner’s mouth. 

Furthermore, the Falcons have created some additional breathing room that may give them the cap space necessary to re-up their star wide receiver. The team completed simple contract restructurings with left tackle Jake Matthews and safety Ricardo Allen, according to Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (on Twitter) to carve out another $5MM.

We’ve been here many times before, but this time, it feels real. In all likelihood, Jones will have a brand new deal by the end of the week that will put him at or near the top of the WR heap in the NFL.

Falcons, Jake Matthews Agree To $75MM Deal

The Falcons and left tackle Jake Matthews are finalizing a five-year, $75MM deal, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal positions Matthews as one of the three highest paid left tackles in the league. 

[RELATED: Julio Jones Reaches Compromise With Falcons]

Matthews, 26, has started every game he’s played in for the Falcons since entering the league as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Last year, the Texas A&M product graded out as the No. 14 tackle in the NFL, per the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Matthews’ 1,159 regular season snaps was the fourth-highest of any tackle in the NFL last season.

Initially, Matthews was scheduled to earn $12.496MM in 2018 before hitting the open market. With the new deal, he’ll earn even more – $15MM/year – while remaining under club control through 2023. It’s a whopper of a deal for a left tackle, and one that is only topped by Taylor Lewan‘s fat new contract with the Titans and Nate Solder‘s recent four-year, $62MM pact.

Next up for the Falcons may be a new deal with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Jarrett, a fifth round pick back in 2015, is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Falcons Look To Extend Matthews, Jarrett

Now that Matt Ryan‘s deal has been taken care of, the Falcons are looking to address other players with contracts that are near expiration. The Falcons will now turn their focus towards new deals for tackle Jake Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, GM Thomas Dimitroff says (Twitter link via Kelsey Conway of the team website). 

[RELATED: Details On Matt Ryan’s Whopping Extension]

Both players are entering their walk years. Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make nearly $12.5MM after the Falcons triggered his fifth-year option for 2018. The Falcons did not have the same option for Jarrett, a 2015 fifth-round choice, so he is slated to hit the open market after earning $1.9MM this year.

Matthews has a perfect attendance record across four NFL seasons, save for one missed game as a rookie. Last year, the Texas A&M product graded out as the No. 14 tackle in the NFL, per the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Matthews’ 1,159 regular season snaps was the fourth-highest of any tackle in the NFL last season.

Coincidentally, Jarrett rated as the 14th best interior defender in the NFL last year, per PFF. Last year, he tallied 34 tackles and four sacks while serving as one of the better run-stuffing DTs in the league. It’s safe to say that Jarrett’s next deal will give him a significant pay bump from his rookie pact.

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs

The Falcons have opened extension talks with quarterback Matt Ryan, general manager Thomas Dimitroff told reporters, including Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link), at the combine today. Ryan, 32, has only one year left on his current contract at a cost of $19.25MM in base salary. On an annual basis, Ryan ranks just 14th among quarterbacks, but any new deal will likely catapult him into $28MM+ range. Atlanta has previously expressed a willingness to make Ryan the highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL, so Ryan and his camp may prefer to wait until free agent passer Kirk Cousins inks a new contract (expected to be worth ~$30MM annually) before working out his own pact.

Here’s more from Atlanta and the rest of the NFC South:

  • Left tackle Jake Matthews is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2018, and Dimitroff indicated the Falcons are interested in signing both Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to multi-year deals, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Matthews has settled in as an above-average tackle since being selected sixth overall in the 2014 draft. He’s scheduled to earn $12.496MM next season. Jarrett, likewise, has developed into one of the league’s best interior defenders, and graded 14th among 122 defensive tackles a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Kemal Ishmael will both be allowed to hit free agency, Dimitroff said today (Twitter links via McClure). That doesn’t necessarily mean Atlanta doesn’t have interest in retaining either player, but the club will allow Gabriel and Ishmael to gauge their value on the open market. Last season, Gabriel regressed from his excellent 2016 campaign, while Ishmael spent the majority of his time on special teams.
  • Bids for the Panthers franchise haven’t yet been entered, but the sale of the club is likely to be wrapped up in time for the NFL’s spring meeting in late May, report David Newton and Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. At that point, the league’s finance committee must approve any potential deal, and 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners must vote to go forward with the sale. Presently, the only two serious contenders to purchase the Panthers from current owner Jerry Richardson are hedge fund manager/minority Steelers owner David Tepper and South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, per the ESPN scribes.
  • While the Buccaneers have had conversations with free agent backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they aren’t nearing a new deal, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Fitzpatrick, 35, managed a 2-1 record in relief of starter Jameis Winston last season while completing 59% of his passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions. He earned $3MM for his year of work in Tampa Bay.

Falcons Exercise Jake Matthews’ Option

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has exercised the fifth-year option on tackle Jake Matthews, according to a team announcement.. 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.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter) first reported the Falcons’ decision.

Falcons Notes: Ishmael, Matthews, Hageman, Baldwin

Falcons starting free safety Dwight Lowery suffered his third-career concussion during Friday’s practice and the team quickly made a move to shore up their depth at the position, adding veteran Tyrell Johnson earlier today.

However, if you listen to safety William Moore, you would think the team’s depth at the position is fine – and the veteran is not tooting his own horn. Instead, Moore has been impressed with the progress of second-year defensive back Kemal Ishmael, and the two worked together extensively during Saturday’s practice.

Via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure…

“Let me tell you something: Kemal is a heck of a player,” Moore said. “He reminds me of myself: one of the underrated guys coming into the league with not much hype. But if you watch Kemal’s ability, one day he’ll gain the attention for people to watch his ability.

“Man, he came out here this year, and I don’t know what he did in the offseason. But he came in lights out.”

Let’s take a look at some more Falcons notes…

  • Falcons first-rounder Jake Matthews has impressed at camp, and NFL.com’s Gil Brandt tweets that the team was originally willing to trade up in the draft to get the offensive lineman. Luckily for Atlanta, Matthews fell to them at pick number-six.
  • Falcons second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman got in a shoving match with center Joe Hawley during practice, and the rookie ended up hurting his wrist. McClure reported that the injury was believed to be a hairline fracture, but ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio says the player doesn’t have any broken bones.
  • NFL.com reporters Ian Rapoport and Gregg Rosenthal agree that recently-released wideout Jonathan Baldwin would be a good fit with the Falcons (via Rapoport’s Twitter).