Thomas Dimitroff

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.

South Notes: Titans, McDermott, Falcons

In a fascinating piece for Bleacher Report, former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist shared some details about his recent interview for the Titans‘ GM position, explaining what he would have done during his first days, weeks, and months on the job if he had been hired by the club.

The entire piece is worth reading, and features a handful of interesting tidbits from Sundquist, who writes that there were some indications that Titans ownership, which wanted to retain head coach Mike Mularkey and stay the course within the front office, “wasn’t necessarily looking for a complete diagnosis of its problems.”

Here’s more Friday reading from around the NFL’s South divisions:

  • Albert Breer of the NFL Network echoes what Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported earlier today, writing that the Titans are “very open to the idea” of shopping the first overall pick. However, Breer cautions that the Titans still want to walk away from the draft with an elite prospect, so there will be a limit to how far the team is willing to trade down. A handful of clubs picking between 11 and 15 could be in the market for a quarterback, but that would be a long way for those teams to move up, and a long way for Tennessee to move down, says Breer.
  • While the Buccaneers ultimately opted to name Dirk Koetter their new head coach, Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott interviewed “very, very well” with Tampa Bay, according to Breer. McDermott figures to be a strong candidate for a head coaching job in 2017.
  • Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged that 2016 feels like a make-or-break year for him, though he added the caveat that he views every year that way, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.
  • Dimitroff also suggested that the Falcons will continue to shop for discounts and values in free agency rather than making a big splash, and said the team has yet to make a decision on Roddy White‘s future, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details in a pair of articles.

Falcons To Retain GM Thomas Dimitroff

Despite some December speculation that his grip on the Falcons’ general manager job was growing somewhat tenuous, Thomas Dimitroff will remain in his current role going forward, owner Arthur Blank announced today. Blank issued a statement expressing confidence in Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn going forward.Thomas Dimitroff

“Over the last week, we have conducted an exhaustive review of every area of our team,” Blank said. “Through this process it has become very clear to me that Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have built a productive working relationship over the last 11 months. There is very good alignment between Dan and Thomas on the direction we need to go to improve our team and I believe maintaining the continuity of that relationship, with Scott Pioli continuing to assist Thomas, is the right way forward.”

While Dimitroff and Pioli appear poised to remain in their current positions, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes made within the front office. In his statement, the Falcons owner went on to say that the team will likely make some moves in the next few weeks that will affect football operations.

“We are going to make a number of changes to our pro personnel and college scouting departments and that process began this week,” Blank said. “It will take some time, but we will be adding talent on the pro personnel side and re-organizing both of these groups to best align with the shared vision of Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. I expect these changes will produce positive results for our team.”

After making the playoffs in four of Dimitroff’s first five seasons as GM, the Falcons have struggled in recent years, going a combined 18-30 over the last three seasons, with no postseason berths. The team has had some trouble during that stretch adding offensive playmakers to complement Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, though Devonta Freeman‘s breakout season in 2015 was a positive sign. There has also been a lack of difference-making talent on defense in Atlanta lately, but the hiring of Quinn and this year’s selection of Vic Beasley represented steps in the right direction on that side of the ball.

Sunday Roundup: Matthews, Dimitroff, Brees

As the NFL world continues to reel from the Peyton Manning HGH allegations, let’s take a look at some links from around the league:

  • Although the majority of the fallout from the Al Jazeera documentary has naturally focused on Manning, it should not be forgotten that other star players, like Packers LB Clay Matthews, were also named in the report. Per Mike Garafolo of FOXSports, via colleague Jay Glazer, Matthews has denied even knowing who former Guyer Institute intern Charlie Sly is and has naturally denied receiving any medications from him (Twitter link).
  • No one disputes that there is a talent deficiency on the Falcons roster, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says GM Thomas Dimitroff will not necessarily take the fall for that deficiency. Per Rapoport, owner Arthur Blank will sit down with Dimitroff after the season to hear his GM’s plan for the team moving forward, and Blank will make a decision about Dimitroff’s future then (Twitter links).
  • Speaking of embattled GMs, Kevin Patra of NFL.com (citing Rapoport) says Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey–who was essentially rendered superfluous when the team hired Mike Tannenbaum–will likely be fired at the end of the season.
  • Les Bowen of The Philadelphia Daily News has even more troubling news for Eagles fans, reporting that veteran left tackle Jason Peters took himself, unhurt, out of last night’s loss to Washington because he did not want to risk getting injured for a team that was not going to make the playoffs.
  • Following a report this morning that Drew Brees would need to take a hometown discount to remain with the Saints in 2016, former NFL agent Joel Corry weighs in on the matter in a series of tweets. Corry says that New Orleans will have to make a quick decision on Brees’ future, as $10.85MM of his $19.75MM base salary becomes fully guaranteed on February 10, 2016, the third day of the waiver period. Because there is no offset language in Brees’ deal, if the Saints were to wait until after February 10 to cut him, they would be saddled with nearly $21MM of dead money. As Corry points out, that reality gives Brees a great deal of leverage, which should allow him to “slow play” contract negotiations.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com looks at the dilemma the Panthers will face this offseason when deciding whether to re-sign Josh Norman, put the franchise tag on him, or let him walk in free agency.
  • Citing a league source, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee tweets that the 49ers plan to keep Jarryd Hayne on the team’s active roster through the end of the season, thereby allowing San Francisco to keep Hayne under club control for 2016.

NFC Rumors: Packers, Falcons, Saints

With playoff seeds potentially set to be finalized across the NFC this weekend, let’s look at some news coming out of some of the conference’s locales.

  • The Packers‘ decision to sign rookie long snapper Rick Lovato instead of a veteran special teams presence surprised some coaches, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. “I want a veteran,” an NFC special teams coach told McGinn. “Try a rookie in camp, not on a playoff run.” Another coach called Lovato’s game tape “terrible” but saw marketed improvement at his pro day this past spring, and the rookie agreed with that assessment. Two AFC special teams coaches didn’t rank Lovato among their top four draft-eligible snappers, McGinn writes.
  • Mason Crosby could command a deal that pays him $4MM per year and guarantees him $8MM this offseason, Tom Silverstein of the Journal-Sentinel writes. The Packers’ patience with Crosby after a 2012 season where he missed 12 field goals has paid off, with the ninth-year kicker missing just 14 over the past three seasons. “Obviously, I want to be a Packer. I love playing here. This is all I know. It’s home to me,” Crosby told media, including Silverstein. “It’s a special place. I would love nothing more than to just continue my career here.”Stephen Gostkowski is the only kicker who makes more than $4MM per year. Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri are a couple of the notable kickers that comprise the upcoming free agent class.
  • Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief could be part of the next batch of Saints veterans cut for salary cap relief, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com writes. The Saints are again in cap turmoil, residing $4MM+ over the 2016 cap presently. Set to play on an $8.2MM cap number, and $7.1MM worth of dead money, Evans has the best chance of sticking around, Duncan notes, due to a potential release of the perennially durable guard netting the team barely $1MM in cap savings. Cutting Colston, who’s been usurped by Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, would save $3.2MM. A Strief release, however, would save the Saints just $1.3MM.
  • Embattled Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff‘s penchant for allowing his coaches significant input in key personnel decisions has led to some slip-ups in recent years, Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Mike Smith preferred the Falcons select Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round last year, and then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan convinced the GM to build a 3-4 defensive front around Paul Soliai and first-round bust Tyson Jackson a year earlier, Schultz writes.