The Falcons now have their highest first-round pick since Matt Ryan under contract. Kyle Pitts signed his four-year rookie deal, complete with a fifth-year option, on Tuesday, Scott Bair of AtlantaFalcons.com tweets.
Pitts’ fully guaranteed deal is worth $32.9MM, with a near-$21MM signing bonus included, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. That $32.9MM guaranteed at signing leads all tight ends, surpassing Jonnu Smith‘s recent Patriots contract. Pitts’ fully guaranteed amount also exceeds All-Pro Travis Kelce‘s by more than $10MM. While the 2011 CBA did away with monster rookie contracts, Pitts’ deal dwarfing accomplished tight ends’ guarantees serves as an exception on this front.
Atlanta chose Pitts fourth overall, making the 6-foot-6 prospect the highest-drafted tight end in the common draft era. Pitts will be expected to make an impact immediately. Although tight ends often take time to develop as pros, the Falcons’ Julio Jones trade stands to put Pitts in a prime position to contribute in Arthur Smith‘s offense in his first season.
Pitts rocketed onto the NFL radar over the past two seasons. In the COVID-19-shortened 2020 slate, the Florida pass catcher posted 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games. Pitts, who will not turn 21 until October, caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five TDs as a sophomore in 2019.
Atlanta was linked to quarterbacks at No. 4 overall for a stretch, but the team opted to extend the Ryan era and give him a potentially elite weapon. Pitts will be a vital part of Smith and GM Terry Fontenot‘s rebuild effort.
DE Joe Tryon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 32 overall)
In a sense, this is a sign that things are back to normal in football following the pandemic. For example, by June 12th of 2019, 22 first-round picks had put pen to paper, with 222 rookies inked on the whole. However, around this time last year, there were just two first-round picks officially in the fold – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown.
Offset language and similar minutia could be holding these ten deals up, but there’s no reason to panic. In all likelihood, these rookie contracts will be squared away before the start of training camp this summer.
The first non-quarterback is off the board. As expected, the Falcons have selected talented Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth-overall pick.
Many pundits had Pitts ranked as their top prospect in the entire draft (or, at least, even with QB Trevor Lawrence), but he wasn’t expected to go in the top-three considering the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers were all eyeing quarterbacks. Atlanta seemed like a natural landing spot for the tight end, although there were some wondering if the Falcons front office would consider an eventual successor to veteran Matt Ryan. Instead, the team has provided the former MVP with another talented weapon.
The 6-foot-6 tight end put himself on the NFL radar with 54 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore. Then, last year, he took his game to a whole ‘nother level. In 13 games, he reeled in 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. That was good for a 17.9 yards per catch average — a major leap from his previous 12.0 ypc. Pitts even placed as a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff award, which goes to the top wide receiver in football.
The Florida product profiles as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Pitts is too fast for most linebackers and he’ll likely outstretch most cornerbacks on deep routes. His aforementioned 40-yard-dash time only boosted his stock further — most evaluators expected him to land somewhere in the high 4.5 range, which still would have been impressive for a player of his size. Playing alongside Calvin Ridley and (potentially) Julio Jones, Pitts should have plenty of opportunities to showcase those skills. Pitts will form an impressive 1-2 TE combo with Hayden Hurst.
It’s been decades since a TE went in the top five. Kellen Winslow Jr. and Vernon Davis came close, but they were taken No. 6 overall in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
April 29th, 2021 at 12:51pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Falcons are set to pick at number four, and may set the table for the rest of the draft. They could either draft Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, draft a successor to Matt Ryan, or trade down with a team looking to move up for a quarterback.
They’ve emphasized they’re open to all options, and owner Arthur Blank is reportedly “fascinated” by the top quarterbacks in this draft. Right now though, it seems like things may be leaning toward them staying put and drafting Pitts. The Falcons “have taken calls from just about everyone” but “there hasn’t been an offer good enough to trade back,” Dianna Russini of ESPN.com tweets.
She does add that they are willing to keep listening, so it’s possible this is just a ploy to drive offers up in the final hours. “As of right now,” however, Pitts “would be a selection the Falcons would be THRILLED to have,” she writes.
It’s possible the offers are underwhelming because other teams know the Falcons will draft Pitts and aren’t going to take a quarterback themselves. It still won’t be at all surprising if the Falcons do end up moving down.
It’s been said that Jerry Jones can’t take his eyes off of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Although he may be high on the exceptional athlete, the Cowboys owner says that he’s not about to pay a king’s ransom for him.
“We’re not going to spend inordinate value [to trade up for Pitts,]” Jones said (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News).
This is consistent with what we’ve been hearing in recent days — the Cowboys love Pitts’ blend of size, speed, and agility, but they aren’t about to mortgage the rest of their draft ammo for him. Moving up from No. 10 would be mighty costly, especially after the 49ers gave up a 2022 third-rounder and two future first rounders to go from No. 12 to No. 3.
Other teams could be tempted to move up for Pitts, who tallied 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games last year — good for an average of 17.9 yards per catch. But, any team that wants to guarantee Pitts’ availability would have to pry the No. 4 pick away from the Falcons.
The Cowboys may be high on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, but they won’t trade up to land him or any other player, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. With less than one week to go until the NFL Draft, it sounds like Jerry Jones & Co. will be standing pat at No. 10.
Drafting Pitts would require the Cowboys to move up several spots — perhaps as high as No. 4. Of course, that’d be costly, especially after the 49ers set the market by sacrificing a 2022 third-round pick and two future first rounders in order to advance from No. 12 to No. 3. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have much more pressing needs to address in the draft including cornerback, offensive tackle, and safety.
Both Pitts and Chase be gone by the time the Dolphins go on the clock at No. 6. The Bengals continue to be linked to Chase at No. 5. If Pitts is still there at 6, the Dolphins should be expected to draft him, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). But if the Dolphins believe they can land Smith or Waddle a bit later than 6, the right offer could prompt the team to pull the trigger on a trade before the draft.
Should both the Alabama prospects be available whenever the Dolphins’ first pick ends up, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the team is believed to be high on Waddle.
Miami acquired a bounty from San Francisco late last month, collecting the No. 12 pick, two future first-rounders and a 2021 third for the No. 3 selection. The Dolphins may be preparing to capitalize on another quarterback-needy team. A team like the Broncos, who hold pick No. 9 and have discussed moving up, may be a fit for another Dolphins trade-down maneuver. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s latest ESPN mock draft has Waddle and Smith falling to the Nos. 11 and 12 spots.
Climbing back from 12 to 6, however, via the trade with the Eagles seemingly indicates the Dolphins want to equip Tua Tagovailoa with another weapon. Tagovailoa played with Smith and Waddle at Alabama; each of his former Crimson Tide teammates would be a major upgrade for the Dolphins and would join Fuller and DeVante Parker in a formidable receiver group.
This year’s draft is almost certain to begin with Trevor Lawrencegoing to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets, making the 49ers’ No. 3 overall pick the beginning of what promises to be a drama-filled top 10. Just behind San Francisco, however, a team faces a more complicated decision.
Picking in the top five for the first time in 13 years, the Falcons hold the No. 4 overall selection. They have a few intriguing options; each would represent drastically different paths for the franchise. After previously not being on the same page about the pick, new GM Terry Fontenot and new HC Arthur Smith are believed to be in agreement now. Which way should the franchise go?
Fontenot was believed to be leaning toward acquiring Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent. There are reasons to support this route. Ryan will turn 36 this year, has not made a Pro Bowl — in the easiest era for such an honor — since his MVP 2016 season, and the Falcons have a rare opportunity to draft one of this year’s prized QB prospects. While late-blooming prospects will likely emerge, the 2022 quarterback class is not currently rated highly. DraftingTrey Lance, Mac Jonesor Georgia native Justin Fields — two will be available — would give the Falcons a player around whom the new regime could build. The Falcons proceeding in this direction would make this the first time a draft has started with four quarterbacks being chosen.
When the duo was believed to be split, Smith was viewed as being in favor of selecting a player who could help a still-Ryan-centric team. With Ryan still an above-average quarterback, and the Falcons possessing needs elsewhere, a case certainly exists for the team to stay the course with its veteran passer. The Falcons having restructured Ryan’s contract earlier this year also would limit their benefit from a rookie-QB salary in 2022. The Jaguars and Jets have no veteran quarterback contract of note on their books, and the 49ers can part ways with Jimmy Garoppolo without much of a dead-cap hit. The Falcons have more than $40MM in Ryan signing bonus money prorated beyond 2021.
Option 3 would be moving the pick. The Falcons are interested in moving down, likely eyeing the type of trade package the Dolphins received (three first-rounders and a third) to do so. Multiple teams have contacted the Falcons about moving up. Washington is believed to be high on Lance, while Broncos GM George Paton has been busy trekking to QBs’ pro days. The Bears are eager to acquire a long-term QB as well, though Washington and Chicago’s draft slots — Nos. 19 and 20 overall — would up Atlanta’s asking price.
So, how will the Falcons proceed? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
There’s no shortage of suitors for the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick, but it’s not a given that they’ll trade down. There’s also the possibility that they’ll stay put and draft a quarterback. Meanwhile, a number of league sources tell Peter King of NBC Sports that they expect the Falcons to stand pat and select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
There’s little doubt that the Falcons are high on Pitts, because just about every team is drooling over his potential. That includes teams like the Cowboys, who are well out of range. Jerry Jones has more pressing needs to fill than the tight end position, but some believe it’s possible that he could move up the board for him anyway.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is “infatuated” with tight end Kyle Pitts, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (via 24/7 Sports). Pitts probably won’t be available at No. 10, so Jones would have to move up the board to get his man.
The Cowboys have several key needs to address in the draft including cornerback, offensive tackle, and safety. The tight end position isn’t among the most glaring holes, but Pitts’ off-the-charts athleticism and pass-catching ability has caught Jones’ attention in a serious way.
To snag him, Jones may have to move up as high as No. 4 overall, after the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers take their quarterbacks. The Falcons could be willing to move that pick, but they’ll need to be blown away by an offer — especially since new GM Terry Fontenotwants a quarterback while new head coachArthur Smith wants to stick with Matt Ryan. Also, the Falcons are pretty fond of Pitts themselves.
Right now, it seems unlikely that Pitts will get past the No. 6 overall pick. To get there, the Cowboys would probably have to sacrifice their 2022 first-round pick.
Pitts, a quarterback in high school, moved to tight end at UF and quickly put himself on the NFL radar. Last year, he snagged 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games, finishing out with an eye-popping 17.9 yards per grab.