Thomas Dimitroff

NFC Notes: Johnson, Redskins, Falcons, Cardinals

One of the best stories of the 2018 NFL season was Josh Johnson. The longtime journeyman quarterback finally got a chance to start his first game since the 2011 season, and immediately sparked the slumping Redskins. The injuries Washington had suffered ultimately proved too severe to overcome, but Johnson still looked pretty good for someone seeing his first live action in seven years who was signed cold off the street. Now, it looks like Johnson could be back with Washington next year.

The team is working on bringing Johnson back, Redskins team president Bruce Allen told JP Finlay of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Word came out recently that the Redskins were expecting Alex Smith to miss the entire 2019 season, so it’s not surprising they’d want to have as many bodies at quarterback as possible. With only Colt McCoy on the roster, it’s not inconceivable that Johnson could have a chance to be Washington’s starter next year.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff again reiterated the team’s desire to lockup defensive tackle Grady Jarrett with a longterm deal this week at the Super Bowl, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ve had a number of conversations. We still have a ways to go but we are confident he’s going to be here for years to come”, Dimitroff said. Jarrett is set to be a free agent this March, but it looks like he won’t ever hit the open market.
  • Speaking of the Falcons, don’t expect them to be big spenders in free agency. Dimitroff said he doesn’t anticipate being that aggressive in pursuing guys from other teams, declaring “I don’t think necessarily we need to make a whole bunch of bold moves.” While he acknowledged that the team has some “regrouping to do” after their disappointing season, he expressed confidence in the group of players currently in the building, and said he doesn’t foresee himself “dropping a ton of money in free agency.”
  • New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury isn’t just retaining one member of last year’s coaching staff, he’s promoting him. Kingsbury will promote Chris Achuff, who was an assistant defensive line coach on Steve Wilks’ staff last year, to be his defensive line coach, a source told Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Achuff had been with Baylor for nine years before joining the Cardinals, so perhaps he had some familiarity with Kingsbury from their Big 12 days.

Falcons’ Owner On Quinn, Dimitroff

The Falcons have head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff under contract through 2022. Their deals would indicate that their fates are tied together, but he says they are not necessarily linked if the 2019 season goes poorly. 

[RELATED: Former Falcons Coach Mike Smith Retires]

I don’t know that. That’s a whole year away,” Blank said (via Jeff Schultz of The Athletic). “They’re two different people with two different roles. I understand the question, and I understand the answer you would like. But the answer I’m giving is the honest answer, which is that we have a year for things to play out.”

Blank went on to say that he has a “very high confidence level” in their ability to turn things around, but it sounds like any outcome is possible if the Falcons fail to make the playoffs yet again. Atlanta finished out 7-9 in 2018 despite a talented roster and high expectations heading into the season.

Of course, the duo has found success together. The Falcons reached, and nearly won, Super Bowl LI against the Patriots following the 2016 season. In 2017, they secured a Wild Card spot with a 10-6 record before falling to the Eagles in the divisional round.

They’re tied at the hip in a positive way in terms of their decision-making,” he said. “I’ve seen them disagree on things in a respectful way. They definitely have different views on some things, but we encourage that as part of our culture in all of our businesses. Usually, if they disagree on something, they move on and try to find an option they both feel better about.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Sign Dimitroff, Quinn To Extensions

The Falcons signed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn to three-year contracts extensions, the team announced on Wednesday. Both men are now signed through the 2022 season. 

[RELATED: Julio Jones Won’t Report To Camp]

The partnership between Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff has proven to be as successful as we envisioned back in 2015,” said Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank. “I believe continuity in leadership is vital to achieving the highest levels of success in any organization and, with these extensions, we ensure these two leaders will be at the helm of our franchise for years to come. Their shared vision and long view plan has already delivered on a variety of levels and has positioned our team for success into the future. My expectations for our team to represent our city and fans well on and off the field remain very high and so does my confidence in Dan and Thomas to make that happen.”

Things have gone well in Atlanta, for the most part, since Dimitroff joined the team in 2008. The Falcons enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons and three consecutive playoff appearances from 2008-12. Clearly, Dimitroff’s emphasis on building through the draft has paid off. As the Falcons noted in their press release, the Falcons had 17 starters in last year’s playoffs – nine on defense and eight on offense – who were either drafted or signed by the team as college free agents.

Quinn, meanwhile, joined the Falcons in 2015. He has a 29-19 record in his three seasons at the helm, including two postseason appearances and a Super Bowl appearance.

Last year, the Falcons enjoyed a playoff win over the Rams, but fell to the Eagles in the divisional round. As they look to improve upon that, they’ll forge ahead with their current GM/Coach duo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Panthers, Fleener, Avril, Falcons, Witten

Earlier this week, we learned that Curtis Fuller had resigned from his gig as the Panthers defensive backs coach. While no explanation was provided at the time, ESPN’s David Newton reports that the decision stemmed from the NFL’s investigation into owner Jerry Richardson.

Ultimately, the team had received “complaints of workplace misconduct” by Fuller, with women describing his conduct as “inappropriate.”

“After approaching Coach Fuller with the findings of an investigation into complaints of inappropriate conduct, we accepted his resignation,” said team spokesperson Steven Drummond. “The Panthers are deeply committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally.”

Fuller had been with the organization since 2013. Following Steve Wilks promotion to defensive coordinator, Fuller was named the defensive backs coach prior to last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • The Saints released tight end Coby Fleener earlier today, and ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the team designated the transaction as a post-June 1st release. That means New Orleans will clear $3MM in cap space on June 2nd. The veteran’s $3.4MM base salary became guaranteed in February, and the team could have saved $3.2MM against the cap by releasing him prior to that date.
  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff says he’s still hoping to add defensive line depth in free agency (Twitter link via 92.9 The Game). That would help to explain Atlanta’s recent interest in former Redskins and Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After losing defensive tackle Dontari Poe to the Panthers and Adrian Clayborn to the Patriots earlier this offseason, the Falcons are looking to restock the front four.
  • Cliff Avril has not officially retired, but it sounds like he is prepared to move on from football. The former Seahawks defensive end will join Sports Radio 950 KJR as a midday co-host beginning in July, the station announced. The press release makes it sound as though Avril’s playing days are through. “Cliff had an amazing career and we are lucky to be part of his next chapter,” iHeartMedia Seattle exec Rich Moore said. However, Avril’s open letter to Seahawks fans last week indicated that he would make his decision after speaking further with medical experts. The Seahawks released the 10-year veteran last week amidst concerns about his neck.
  • Long-time Cowboys star Jason Witten announced his retirement earlier today, and his former quarterback penned the tight end a farewell letter. “Sometimes in life you are lucky to come across someone that will change your life,” Tony Romo wrote on Twitter. “Most of the time you don’t realize it at the moment the profound impact and impression someone will have on you. The difference with Jason Witten is that I knew right away the impact he would have on me. Not only was Jason the most talented, humble and hardest working individual on our football team, but he was one of the most genuine, good-hearted people you could ever meet.” Romo also referred to Witten as the “best” player he ever played with.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Falcons GM Discusses Trufant, Free Agency, Draft

The Falcons had a brilliant run during the regular season and playoffs, but the organization now has to switch focus to free agency and the draft. Fortunately, considering their lack of impending free agents, there shouldn’t be too many shakeups on the Falcons roster.

The team does have to work out a contract for Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant, and the team may be seeking some depth on the defensive line depending on what happens with veterans Jonathan Babineaux and Dwight Freeney. Of course, the Falcons are heading into the offseason with nearly $30MM in cap space, so they shouldn’t have any issues signing Trufant and depth pieces.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff recently sat down with D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss the current state of the Falcons roster, his organization’s plans for the offseason, and the status of Trufant and the defensive line. The entire article is worth a read, but we’ve compiled some of the notable quotes below…

Thomas DimitroffOn the talent of his current roster:

“We are really encouraged where we are from a roster standpoint. We have a lot of youth here. We have a lot of talented players. We are excited about the trajectory here. Of course, it’s very positive.”

“I really believe that we don’t have any major holes in this roster. We are continuing to build the depth of this roster. We are continuing to get better and better along those lines. I don’t look at any (one) area on the field (as deficit).”

On the front office’s game plan for the offseason:

“Every year, we’ve been pretty aggressive in free agency, and we think this year our focus is going to be on signing a number of players on our team who are up. That’s going to be the main focus.”

On the depth of this year’s draft class:

“It’s a good year for defense. Most of the defensive positions are quite strong. That plays well here with a young defense that’s continuing to be built. That’s a good thing. Offensively, there is always a ton of receivers, but I’m not sure that’s the area that we’re going to be focusing on that much. … The depth in the lower rounds, I think is as good as well.”

On the impending free agency of Desmond Trufant, who has spent his entire four-year career with Atlanta:

“He’s a very valuable asset to this team. We are going to get him signed up, and we’re going to get him healthy and signed up for years to come.”

On the status of his pass rushers, and how he’d plan on filling any potential departures:

“I think we need to continue to get up and affect the passer, whether that’s with the young guys who’ll continue to get better and better. I was really encouraged with how Ra’Shede Hageman came along on in the middle of the season. He’s really responding to Dan Quinn’s sort of tutoring. Dan’s presence like that has been great for that defensive line.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Trufant, Falcons, Packers, Bucs

Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant may have missed the final half of the regular season and his team’s entire playoff run, but the 26-year-old is still in line to get a hefty payday. Speaking to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the organization will look to extend the 2013 first-rounder this offseason.

“He’s a top-tier corner, no question about it,” Dimitroff said. “We believe that he’s going to do some excellent things for us into the future.”

Trufant is signed through 2017 after the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option (worth an estimated $8MM). The four-year veteran was plenty productive through his team’s first nine games, compiling 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. While several defensive backs, including former second-rounder Jalen Collins, stepped up in Trufant’s absense, Dimitroff was still adamant that the cornerbacks were led by the former Pro Bowler.

“Trufant’s value has not dropped at all,” Dimitroff said. “We are really excited about having Trufant back and [Robert] Alford back and Jalen Collins back and Brian Poole back. And then the other guys who have contributed to us this year in [C.J.] Goodwin and Deji Olatoye. Those guys are a real cool and encouraging group of secondary [players], and the guy who is at the front of that is Trufant.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes as we wrap up this Tuesday evening…

  • Trufant isn’t the only player who the Falcons are looking to extend. McClure writes that the organization is also trying to lock up quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Devonta Freeman“Our focus in free agency is to, again, focus on the guys on our team to get them done first,” Dimitroff said. “It’s probably this year more than any, it’s where our focus is.”
  • The Falcons have received “multiple requests” from other teams to interview their assistant coaches, tweets Alex Marvez of The Sporting News. The reporter notes that some coaches will be allowed to talk to opposing teams while others will not.
  • By releasing running back James Starks earlier today, the Packers created more than $2.8MM in salary cap space, tweets former NFL agent Joel Corry. The transaction left a reasonable $750K of dead money on the team’s cap.
  • The Buccaneers worked out long snapper Kameron Canaday today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The former Portland State product won the Cardinals long snapper gig heading into the regular season, but he was released following a botched snap in Week 3. The Buccaneers did add a long snapper earlier today in Dax Dellenbach, but that shouldn’t prevent the team from adding another player for competition.

Falcons Notes: Jones, Ryan, Mack, Shanahan

Contrary to some megadeals for one player, the 2011 Julio Jones trade ended up benefiting the team that sacrificed draft picks instead of the franchise that acquired them. And this might come up during Super Bowl LI on Sunday since Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff made the trade against the urging of former boss Bill Belichick.

Bill was very open about it. He felt it was something he would not do. He said, ‘Thomas, are you sure you want to do this? You’re gonna be tied to this for the rest of your career,'” Dimitroff said, via Michael Silver of NFL.com. “We talked for 30 or 40 minutes. I remember coming back around at the end, saying, ‘All due respect — if and when you see we’re gonna pull the trigger on this tonight, your words didn’t fall on deaf ears.’ And in my mind I was thinking, [Forget] it: We’re doing this. It was surreal. Here’s a Hall of Fame coach and team-builder telling me not to do it, and I’m doing this anyway!

The Falcons held the No. 27 selection after joining the Patriots as 2010 No. 1 seeds ousted in the divisional round. They surrendered four picks to the Browns for the No. 6 selection. Dimitroff authorized two first-round selections to go to Cleveland in the deal. No players remain on the Browns from that exchange.

Here’s more coming out of the NFC champions’ headquarters on the eve of their first Super Bowl in 18 years.

  • Newly crowned NFL MVP Matt Ryan will become the highest-paid player in football if he signs an extension this coming offseason — regardless of Sunday’s result, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. The first Falcon to earn MVP acclaim, the 31-year-old Ryan has two more seasons remaining on his current deal, one that pays him the 11th-most money on average for QBs. But Falcons owner Arthur Blank said this week Ryan “will be” compensated well. He’s playing on the five-year, $103.75MM deal signed in 2013. That deal made Ryan the second-highest-paid player in football at the time. No player presently surpasses the $25MM-AAV mark, and Ryan — on the heels of a dominant regular season and amid a dynamic playoffs — could get there. Walk-year quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr could push for that distinction as well, but Corry believes Ryan’s deal will be the new standard. Andrew Luck‘s $24.59MM per year represents the current high-water mark.
  • Alex Mack looks set to play on Sunday after turning heads in practice this week, NFL.com’s Tiffany Blackmon reports (on Twitter). The standout center’s fibula injury “concernedDan Quinn this week, with Mack being a key presence in Atlanta’s ground game. Ben Garland serves as the Falcons’ backup center but saw Mack start in each of the NFC champions’ 18 games this season.
  • The seminal Jones trade serves as only one of the reasons the Browns helped the Falcons reach this stage. Cleveland bypassing the opportunity to select Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr with its No. 23 pick instead of Johnny Manziel in 2014 likely irked then-Browns OC Kyle Shanahan, per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal, helping lead to his one-year tenure in northeast Ohio. Shanahan soon joined the Falcons after asking to be released from his contract.
  • Devonta Freeman is seeking “elite” money on his second contract. The Falcons’ starting running back becomes extension-eligible after the Super Bowl.

Falcons Extend GM Thomas Dimitroff

The Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have agreed to a long-term extension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The team has since confirmed the deal via press release. The new deal will lock the executive down from 2017 through 2019.Thomas Dimitroff

This summer, Dimitroff said that he didn’t expect to last much longer in Atlanta if the team didn’t turn around its on-field performance.

“Of course I’m on the hot seat. Every year I’m on the hot seat. I believe that 100 percent,” he said in June.“I believe anyone who doesn’t think they are maybe just won a Super Bowl. But I think most of us know that it’s a very urgent league now.”

After going a wildly successful 56-24 with four playoff berths and at least nine wins in each of Dimitroff’s first five years with the Falcons, the club combined for an 18-30 mark and no postseason appearances from 2013-2015. This season, however, the Falcons have turned things around by getting out to a 6-3 start. On Thursday night, they defended their spot atop the NFC South with a 43-28 drumming of the Buccaneers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Colts, LA, Von, Falcons, J. Long

The Colts might be in Los Angeles right now if not for Peyton Manning, former general manager Bill Polian told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday. Polian informed Zig Fracassi (Twitter link) that Colts owner Jim Irsay waited until the last minute around 2000 to prevent a move to LA, ultimately getting Lucas Oil Stadium built because of the presence of Manning, then the face of the franchise. Manning, who was only a three-year veteran at the end of the 2000 season, stayed with the Colts through the conclusion of the 2011 campaign – which he missed because of a neck injury – and helped to secure their only Super Bowl title and, apparently, their presence in Indianapolis.

Now, as we ponder an alternate reality in which the LA Colts exist, let’s check in on more from the league:

  • The Broncos and superstar linebacker Von Miller are embroiled in a well-publicized contract battle and haven’t engaged in much dialogue over the last week and a half, but Troy Renck of the Denver Post expects the two to get a deal done before the July 15 deadline. It’s going to take more than $63MM in guarantees for that to happen, Renck acknowledges.
  • Ninth-year Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t expect to last much longer in Atlanta if the team doesn’t turn around its on-field performance, he told Talk of Fame Sports Network. “Of course I’m on the hot seat. Every year I’m on the hot seat. I believe that 100 percent,” he said. “I believe anyone who doesn’t think they are maybe just won a Super Bowl. But I think most of us know that it’s a very urgent league now.” After going a wildly successful 56-24 with four playoff berths and at least nine wins in each of Dimitroff’s first five years with the Falcons, the club has combined for an 18-30 mark and no postseason appearances since 2013. The suddenly inept Falcons also turned a 6-1 start last season into an 8-8 overall finish.
  • Despite a belief from some league insiders that Jake Long‘s legs are “shot,” the free agent offensive tackle told SiriusXM on Tuesday that he’s “100 percent confident” he’ll play in 2016, also stating that his agent has been in contact with teams (Twitter links). Long, who claims to be fully healthy, missed all but four games as a member of Dimitroff’s Falcons in 2015 and didn’t log any starts. Since last season ended, the 2008 No. 1 overall pick has garnered just one workout – with the Bears, who signed fellow offensive lineman Nate Chandler instead.

Extra Points: Hall, Falcons, Wentz, Saints

Some assorted notes from around the NFL on this Saturday afternoon…

  • The Falcons won’t be signing veteran cornerback Leon Hall, according to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. The 31-year-old auditioned for Atlanta last week, and considering coach Dan Quinn’s comments regarding the player’s injury history, McClure presumes that Hall didn’t check out medically.
  • Despite suggesting that every team deserves an ‘A’ for their draft efforts, Falcons owner Arthur Blank was particularly happy with his team’s haul. “You think from our perspective, I would give our coach and general manager Thomas (Dimitroff) a grade A because I know that every single position they drafted very specifically for exactly what the coach wanted and the coaching needs in terms of defense or in terms of the offense,” Blank told Doug Roberson of AJC.com. “Hopefully, that will play out in a successful way over the next couple of years.”
  • Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t anticipating any issues with teammate Sam Bradford“I think the relationship with him, and really, the other quarterbacks in the room, I think it’ll be great,” Wentz told Les Bowen of Philly.com.“I think it’ll be a really competitive atmosphere. Hopefully, we’ll all learn together and grow together and really push each other, and ultimately (that will) lead to benefiting the team and winning a lot of ballgames.” An April report suggested that Bradford wanted out of Philly.
  • ESPN’s Mike Triplett passes along (via Twitter) a trio of veterans auditioning for the Saints: kicker Connor Barth and defensive linemen Matt Shaughnessy and C.J. Wilson.