Oh, poor Falcons fans, I cry to you.
Not because of the Julio Jones trade; as we’ve been telling you in this space for months, that’s all they were ever going to get in a $ 15 million salary dump. No, the real problem is that Jones is the only significant – or near significant – trade the perpetually mediocre franchise has done. The problem is, Matt Ryan hasn’t left either, and that’s made worse by the past three trade deadlines in which management has failed in their duty to retool for the future and deal with aging players on contracts. swollen while they still could. So they end up calling arguably the most impactful player in franchise history and the infallible Hall of Famer of the first round for what the Falcons themselves gave Baltimore a year ago for the right to withdraw. tight end Hayden Hurst with their hands.
Yeah, it’s really that bad.
For too long, owner Arthur Blank and his underlings – now gone – were all on the same dirty joke; the one where they pretended to be something other than what the list and the file dictated. They fell into the brutal wilderness of overestimating their own players based on how much they overpaid them (Jerry Jones specializes in this area), and rather than admit defeat as their losing Super Bowl team quickly unraveled and saw their squad like the rest of the league did – claiming misguided – they doubled their core of veterans and continued with a top roster lacking depth and young production (especially in defense). Deadly combination in this sport.
So, they end up with a rookie head coach and rookie GM tasked with trading their best player, for what would never be much more than a second round pick (and never any chance of a first round despite which spat elsewhere), while still having a limited 36-year-old quarterback physically tied to the club despite being in an ideal position to draft a fourth overall (and cutting Ryan in 2022 now carries a cap of 40 million dollars; managing caps hasn’t really been their thing, constantly pushing more guaranteed money into the future).
The Falcons therefore do not have an identified future QB. They still carry mind-blowing contracts like Dante Fowler ($ 6million of his $ 23million guaranteed signature is still due in 2021), and without a young core to build around, with holes all over a leaky roster and hardly the type of competition you would want a team that is rebuilding itself, whether they want to admit it or not.
When you give Julio Jones so that you have enough room to sign rookies (and don’t get me started on the Falcons’ draft record for the past five years or so), yes, you are rebuilding. But do it halfway, backwards, the wrong way round.
You do it without an arsenal of additional draft picks. You do this while sending mixed messages to your players and fans about what is really going on here. You go there with nothing else on your roster that you could hope to reap significant draft capital for. You’re doing this at a time when the widespread apathy around this team in Atlanta – as evidenced by low attendance at this sparkling new stadium even before the pandemic sets in – is becoming a real issue. Rather than see the bottom for what it was and smash things to rebuild them, Blank opted to continue chasing the hollow late-season wins to try and stay on the periphery of the wild card chase, in hoping maybe the turnstiles would follow.
You might be wrong in thinking that 7-9 means you might not be that far away … But when for three years in a row you don’t play really meaningful games after October, the odds are better that you will. really be so bad. Rather than admit it and fire Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn years ago, Blank preached patience when, sadly, it was action that was needed.
Action with new direction. Action with list movements made with a long-term vision. Take action with how they spent their money, and be smart about having enough ceiling space and smart asset management.
Somehow, a team that has seemingly pursued a quality offensive and defensive line and all semblance of a pass rush for as long as I can remember is still no better equipped to thrive in none of those critical areas even now. Everything was jerky. Nothing was really decisive, and even Jones’ trade was further crippled by Atlanta’s need to delay the trade until June for the purpose of lowering the cap.
How does all of this make them a better football team or a better franchise? An already limited market for Jones was further reduced by all those receivers that we saw from eager receiver drafting teams just a few months ago. If that doesn’t scream to rebuild, nothing does… But Jones is the only guy left. What amounts to an extra pick, say, somewhere around No.50, with a fourth round in 2023, is all they have to show for the future at a time when franchises like the Browns, Dolphins , the Jets and Eagles managed to charge up on additional picks along the way as they tried to reposition themselves for the future.
Newsflash: The Falcons don’t win a Super Bowl with Ryan, just like they didn’t with Jones. And like Jones, every time that quarterback makes the move, he will earn little, if any, in return.
In this league, you had better be really good or really bad. Stuck in the middle isn’t a place to be, but the Falcons might be talented enough to grab another seven wins next year, end up in the draft as a teenager and need to trade draft picks to progress. and finally try to land a quarterback. It would be so Falcon.
It would be totally back after making the choice of several talented passer a few months ago, while peddling Jones. It would seem quirky, desperate and reactionary. It would seem at least a year too late. And that would be perfectly appropriate, considering who would.