Jake Matthews

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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).

Extra Points: Matthews, Gordon, Rams, Pats

It’s a new day when it comes to rookie contracts in the NFL, writes former exec Andrew Brandt for The MMQB. Of course, salaries and contract length are now predetermined for every pick, taking the negotiating out of the process. Because of that, many players are questioning why they need to have an agent to handle rookie contracts at all. Here’s more from around the league..

  • Falcons first round pick Jake Matthews will receive a $10.269MM signing bonus on his four-year, $16.435MM guaranteed deal, tweets Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. As is the case for the rest of his fellow first-rounders, the deal for the No. 6 overall pick also includes a fifth-year option.
  • Browns General Manager Ray Farmer said that he doesn’t think a superstar receiver is crucial to a team’s success, which may not bode well for Josh Gordon‘s long-term future with the club, writes Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer. “I would say ‘how important are those guys?”’ Farmer told 92.3 The Fan. “Name the last big-time receiver to win a Super Bowl. Name the last mega-guy. (Gordon) matters to me because I like the guy and I think he’s a really good player, but at the end of the day, when you look at the teams that have these mega-receivers, name the last guy that won a Super Bowl?… There are none. The last guy that really helped his team get there was T.O. (Terrell Owens).
  • The Rams signed undrafted free agent wide receiver Jordan Harris, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. The Baylor product racked up over 2,200 yards over the last two years.
  • The Patriots announced that they have signed first-year defensive back Daxton Swanson out of Sam Houston State and undrafted free agent defensive lineman L.T. Tuipulotu from Utah. To make room, the Pats released rookie free agent safety Jeremy Deering (Rutgers) and first-year wide receiver Greg Orton (Purdue).
  • Packers free agent Jermichael Finley tweeted out that he has received “Awesome News!” with the hashtag “#IWillRiseAgain” which could be an indictation that he has been cleared to play. Finley, once regarded as one of the best tight ends in the NFL, missed the bulk of last season.

Falcons Reach Deals With Matthews, Hageman

The Falcons have agreed to terms on contracts with their top two draft picks, the team announced today (via Twitter). Sixth overall pick Jake Matthews and 37th overall selection Ra’Shede Hageman have reached agreements with Atlanta, leaving just two unsigned rookies out of the club’s nine-player draft class.

Matthews becomes the seventh first-rounder to agree to a deal with his new NFL club, and the second-highest pick to do so, after Oakland’s Khalil Mack, who went fifth overall. As Jason Fitzgerald’s figures at OverTheCap.com show, the offensive tackle’s four-year contract features a signing bonus of about $10.269MM and an overall base value of around $16.43MM, and also includes a fifth-year option for the 2018 season. As for Hageman, the defensive lineman’s signing bonus should be a more modest $2.2MM, with his four-year deal checking in at about $5.336MM.

With Matthews and Hageman now locked up, only third-round safety Dezmen Southward and fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman still need to ink their deals with the Falcons. To keep tabs on all of this year’s draft pick signings, check out our tracker right here.

NFC Rookie Minicamp Notes: Jones, Lucas, Starr, Moses, Norwood

Bears undrafted free agent Christian Jones worked at strong-side linebacker during the team’s rookie minicamp, according to Adam Hoge of 670 AM/CBSChicago.com. Jones, a physically gifted linebacker, played a prominent role for national champion Florida State, seeing snaps at all three linebacker spots as well as rushing the passer. He was projected as a third-round pick based on talent evaluation, but a failed drug test caused him to tumble out of the draft entirely. Thin at linebacker, the Bears pounced on Jones, who says he stands to benefit from focusing on one position. He also revealed what gave the Bears the edge when it came time to choose a team: Jones’ father played with Bears linebackers coach Reggie Herring at FSU.

In other news from various NFC minicamps. . .

    • The Lions see big upside in 6-9, 328-pound undrafted free agent offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas, writes Carlos Monarrrez in the Detroit Free Press. Lucas, a two-year starter at Kansas State, suffered a stress fracture in his left foot two weeks before the combine, but his rare size and eye-popping 88-inch wing span piqued the interest of the Lions, who “did show the most interest in him and began contacting him when the fourth round of the draft began as they attempted to land a steal in the priority free-agent market.” As ESPN’s Michael Rothstein points out, Lucas’ developmental value is noteworthy considering defensive line coach Jim Washburn was able to turn undrafted free agent LaAdrian Waddle into an eight-game starter.
    • Falcons seventh-rounder Tyler Starr is a longshot worth keeping an eye on, writes ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, who says Starr “has a quick first step and plays with some power. He even beat first-round pick Jake Matthews around the edge on Sunday while showing a burst not typical of a late-round pick.” Starr lacks ideal speed and power, but the Missouri Valley’s Defensive Player of the Year is a high-motor defender whose 6.64-second three-cone drill bested all pass rushers at the combine.
    • Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay spoke with Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota and said the team had a third/fourth-round grade on seventh-rounder Terrance Mitchell, a cornerback out of Oregon.
    • ESPN’s John Keim took in Redskins minicamp and gave brief thoughts on the team’s draft picks, including third-round tackle Morgan Moses, who could require some patience.

King’s Latest: Manziel, Browns, Jags, Falcons

In his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column, Peter King of TheMMQB.com leads off by writing about the Rams‘ drafting of Michael Sam and Johnny Manziel‘s Thursday night wait in the green room. King also provides a few interesting tidbits, so let’s dive in and round them up….

  • Manziel thought there was a decent chance he’d be selected by the Rams at No. 13, and when St. Louis passed, he became concerned about a free fall. Before the Browns eventually jumped up to No. 22 to nab Manziel, the Eagles were close to trading the pick to another club, likely the Vikings.
  • Browns GM Ray Farmer on the decision to trade the No. 4 overall pick to the Bills, who used it to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins: “We were very close to turning in the card. We very easily could have turned in the card with Sammy’s name on it.”
  • The Jaguars and Falcons had “many discussions” about a trade that would have included Jacksonville’s No. 3 overall pick and Atlanta’s No. 6. The Falcons would also have included at least a third-round pick to complete the deal, but the Jags decided to stay put to make sure they got Blake Bortles. Had the Falcons moved up to third overall, they planned to take the same player they ended up landing at No. 6: Jake Matthews.
  • Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell on turning down the trade: “There were so many teams that wanted quarterbacks—at one, four, five, seven and eight, and they were all within striking distance of us. I just kept thinking, ‘One of those teams has to see what we were seeing in Bortles.’ So let’s say we move back and make a deal. What are we going to take in the third? A guard? You can find guards. You can’t find the quarterback you think fits your team best. So in the end it wasn’t a hard decision for us.”