Terry Fontenot

Falcons GM Was Against Matt Ryan Restructuring

Back in March, the Falcons managed to carve out some cap space by restructuring the contract of Matt Ryan. However, it sounds like at least one member of the front office wasn’t a proponent of the move. According to Tori McElhaney of The Athletic, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot “didn’t really want to make” the move.

Fontenot was brought in as GM in January, and the organization needed some immediate breathing room to participate in the early parts of the offseason. While the Ryan restructuring reduced the quarterback’s cap number to $14MM, it also converted $21MM of Ryan’s $23MM upcoming base salary into future signing bonuses (spread out over the duration of his contract). The means Fontenot will have to once again deal with a muddled cap sheet next offseason, which was something he was presumably looking to avoid.

According to the writer, the recently hired GM ultimately “thought his hands were tied,” and he believed the team’s only solution to opening some necessary cap space was to either restructure Ryan or cut Deion Jones. Ultimately, the organization decided to rework Ryan’s contract, the fourth time the quarterback has restructured his mega-deal. Ryan will now have cap hits north of $40MM in 2022 and 2023.

The team (temporarily) committed to Ryan when they decided to not select a quarterback during this past year’s draft. Considering the money that’s owed to Ryan over the next few years, the team will likely be stuck with the veteran. Ryan hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2018, but he’s still completed 65.6-percent of his passes while averaging 26 touchdowns vs. 12.5 sacks over the past two years. Ryan won’t have one of his favorite targets with Julio Jones out of the picture, but the team still added tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick to pair with 2020 second-team All-Pro Calvin Ridley.

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Falcons GM: “We Have To Listen” To Julio Jones Offers

Earlier this week, we learned that the Falcons have been receiving trade inquiries on Julio Jones. When asked about the possibility of trading the star wide receiver, Falcons GM Terry Fontenot didn’t rule it out.

[RELATED: Jones Drawing Trade Interest]

That’s one of those things when you’re doing things the right way as an organization, you have to listen if people call on any player,” Fontenot told Justin Felder of FOX 5 (Twitter link). “We are in a difficult cap situation. That’s just the circumstance…Our administration has done an excellent job up to this point getting us in position to be able to manage the cap. Yet, we still have more work to do.”

So, when teams call about any players, we have to listen, and we have to weigh it and we have to determine what’s best for the organization, and we have to handle everything with class. Obviously, that particular player [Jones] — we hold him in high regard. He’s special…but we have to consider [listening on] any player if it’s right for the team, because we have to do what’s right for the team.”

Jones, 32, is still a difference maker when he’s healthy and on the field, though he missed roughly half of the 2020 season due to hamstring issues. Now, the Falcons have an opportunity to give themselves some breathing room on the cap by trading Jones sometime after June 1. It’s not clear which teams have called on Jones, though Peter King of NBC Sports speculated that the Patriots, Titans, Ravens, and Raiders could be among the suitors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons HC, GM Aligned On No. 4 Pick?

It’s no longer a house divided. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are now “aligned” on what to do with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Earlier this week, we heard that Fontenot was pushing for a quarterback. Meanwhile, Smith wanted to stay the course with Matt Ryan. Ryan is on the verge of his 36th birthday, but he’s been durable and fairly steady.

Of course, we don’t know where the Falcons ultimately landed, and we probably won’t know for sure until the draft kicks off on April 29th in Cleveland. The Falcons are in an enviable position — the Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers are all expected to tap quarterbacks with the first three picks, which would allow them to take the best non-quarterback in this year’s class. They could also trade down and parlay that pick into a wealth of ammo for 2022 and beyond.

If they resist the urge to take a QB, the Falcons could select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Or, if they stand pat to grab Matt Ryan’s successor, they could come away with Trey Lance — the North Dakota State product who could have more upside than Zach Wilson and Mac Jones (basically, a higher ceiling than any passer not named Trevor Lawrence).

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Falcons GM, HC Split On Drafting QB?

Earlier this morning, we heard that the Falcons were open to moving down from the fourth overall pick. Now, we have some more details on what’s happening inside the building.

Atlanta’s new GM Terry Fontenot apparently favors drafting a quarterback, while new head coach Arthur Smith does not, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported recently, via Evan Birchfield of The Falcoholic. “What I’m hearing is that [Terry] Fontenot is more focused on quarterback, and Arthur Smith believes that Matt Ryan does have two or more years left,” Mortensen said.

While that big split between a GM and head coach in their first year together might not be ideal, it doesn’t sound like the situation has turned toxic or anything. The fact that Atlanta is open to moving the pick would seem to indicate that Smith’s view might be winning out.

He has no real medical history, he hasn’t missed many games in his career and there hasn’t been a big drop off in his play,” Mortensen said of Smith’s view of Ryan. Interestingly, Mortensen also had some info on who the Falcons might pick if Fontenot gets his way.

One thing I do hear though is that if they do go quarterback at No. 4, then Trey Lance is probably the guy,” he said. It sounds like there’s a real possibility that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and Lance go 1-4. Ryan, 36 next month, is signed through the 2023 season.

 Running it back for at least one more cycle with Ryan and Julio Jones, now 32, still seems like the most likely scenario. This will be one of the most interesting dynamics to watch in the lead up to the draft.

Falcons Hire Terry Fontenot As GM

It’s official. On Tuesday morning, the Falcons announced that they have hired Terry Fontenot as their new GM.

[RELATED: Falcons Hire Arthur Smith]

The Saints’ assistant GM of pro personnel reportedly shook hands (or, elbow-bumped) on a deal last week. However, he was barred from taking the job while the Saints were in the midst of the playoffs. Then, the Buccaneers eliminated the Saints on Sunday, clearing the way for Fontenot to move on to his new NFC South home.

To date, Fontenot has spent his entire 18-year career with the Saints. After seven seasons as a pro scout, seven seasons as director of pro scouting, and four years in his current role, the Falcons believe that he’s ready to lead his own front office.

When we started this process we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building. We feel very strongly that we’ve found that individual in Terry Fontenot,” said owner Arthur Blank. “In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgments that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout.

“Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and the expectations they have to a high level.”

With Fontenot and Arthur Smith in place, the Falcons will now focus on rounding out their coaching staff.

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Broncos Notes: Miller, Paton, Lock

Broncos LB Von Miller is the subject of a criminal investigation in Parker, CO, as Mike Klis of 9News.com was among those to report (via Twitter). Parker police would not comment on the nature of the investigation, though a report from FOX 31 suggests that it pertains to domestic abuse allegations levied against Miller by his ex-fiancée. The Broncos issued a statement indicating they are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more info.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, a decision on whether charges will be filed will not be made for several weeks. Obviously, any allegations of domestic violence are serious and outweigh any on-field concerns, but Miller’s future with the Broncos was already in doubt. He missed the entire 2020 campaign due to an ankle injury, and though he earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019, his eight sacks that year marked a career low (aside from a five-sack effort in 2013, when he played in just nine games).

Klis reports in a full-length piece that the Broncos will ask Miller to take a pay cut. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is due a $17.5MM base salary in 2021 — the last year of his current contract — but carries a $22.225MM cap charge due to an earlier restructure. Denver could release him and create $18MM in cap space, and given that Miller is unlikely to earn $17.5MM on the open market, he may be amenable to a reduction in pay. If the domestic allegations are substantiated, he can definitely bank on a suspension.

Now for more from the Mile High City:

  • In the same piece linked above, Klis examines the most pressing questions for new GM George Paton. Paton and HC Vic Fangio will report to John Elway in the team’s revamped power structure, but Paton will have control over personnel matters. One of his first orders of business — aside from the Miller issue — will be to sort out the Broncos’ QB situation. Veteran signal-callers like Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson may or may not be available on the trade market, and even if a blockbuster trade doesn’t happen, Klis expects Paton to bring in legitimate competition for incumbent passer Drew Lock. Paton will also have the No. 9 overall pick at his disposal.
  • The contract situation of safety Justin Simmons will need to be addressed as well. Simmons and the Broncos were unable to come to terms on a multi-year contract last offseason, so the newly-minted Pro Bowler played out the 2020 season under a $11.4MM franchise tag. Klis suggests that Simmons could adjust his asking price on a long-term deal given the expected decrease in the 2021 salary cap, and he also says a second tag — worth about $13.7MM — could be in play.
  • Saints vice president of pro personnel Terry Fontenot was the runner-up to Paton in the Broncos’ GM hunt, as Klis tweets. Denver was able to convince Paton — who had been a hot GM candidate for years — to finally leave Minnesota, but the club was certainly impressed by Fontenot, who is now said to be the Falcons’ top choice for their GM vacancy.

Falcons To Hire Terry Fontenot?

The Falcons have identified Terry Fontenot as their top choice to be their next GM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). New Orleans’ assistant GM for pro personnel could be anointed as soon as the Saints’ season ends. For Fontenot, that could be as soon as Monday, though he’ll be rooting for a February signing.

[RELATED: Falcons Have Second Interview With Arthur Smith]

Fontenot was said to be a finalist for the job, along with Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes. Colts college scouting director Morocco Brown, Bills exec Joe Schoen, and former Texans GM Rick Smith were considered, along with internal candidate Anthony Robinson.

To date, Fontenot has spent his entire 18-year career with the Saints. After seven seasons as a pro scout, seven seasons as director of pro scouting, and four years in his current role, he’ll run his own front office in the same division.

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2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

Latest On Lions GM Search

Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes is in Detroit for a second interview, which will occur Tuesday. He is the first such GM candidate to meet with the Lions a second time during this cycle. He may not be the only exec the Lions meet with twice.

The Lions want to bring Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Saints execs Jeff Ireland and Terry Fontenot back for second meetings, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (on Twitter). Detroit also added Indianapolis assistant GM Ed Dodds to its interview list, meeting with him Tuesday. The Lions were evidently impressed, with Breer noting they would like to speak with Dodds again.

Dodds recently bowed out of the wide-ranging Panthers GM search, leaving only the Lions pursuing him. The former Seahawks exec may be connected to another ex-Seattle staffer. The Lions have been connected to 49ers DC Robert Saleh about their HC vacancy for weeks, and the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes some believe Dodds would want to bring Saleh with him to Detroit (Twitter link). Saleh and Dodds were both with the Seahawks from 2011-13, though Saleh was only a defensive quality control coach at that point.

A Michigan native, Saleh interviewed for the Lions job last week but remains in the mix for other gigs — a list that now includes Philadelphia. Saleh has also been connected to an Adam Peters HC-GM pairing, but Peters is not a Lions GM candidate.

Paton and Fontenot remain in the mix for the Broncos GM post, having booked second interviews with Denver. While the longtime Vikings exec has been quite particular in past GM searches, he has remained a sought-after candidate. Fontenot, who interviewed for the Jets’ GM job in 2019, and Ireland — the former Dolphins GM — each went through virtual interviews for the Detroit job last week. Holmes is a Falcons finalist as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brad Holmes Interviewing With Lions And Falcons A Second Time

Rams exec Brad Holmes appears to be picking up steam as general manager searches continue across the league. Holmes is flying to Detroit for a second interview with the Lions tonight, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Los Angeles’ director of college scouting also had a second interview with the Falcons over the weekend, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Schefter writes that Holmes is now “tracking to land a GM job.” Given the success the Rams have had in the Sean McVay era, it’s not too surprising he’s turning into a hot name. Pelissero writes that Holmes is one of the finalists for Atlanta’s job, along with Saints exec Terry Fontenot, and that former Texans GM Rick Smith is still in the mix there as well.

Holmes has had a remarkable journey, staring with the Rams as a PR intern all the way back in 2003 and rising up the ranks of the organization ever since. He became the director of college scouting in 2013. The Lions had been interested in luring John Schneider away from Seattle, but with Schneider getting an extension through 2027 earlier today, that obviously isn’t happening.