INDIANAPOLIS — Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said he has started contract negotiations with quarterback Matt Ryan‘s agent, Tom Condon, but added that there is no definitive timetable on reaching an extension with the one-time MVP.
Dimitroff previously said signing Ryan to a long-term extension was the team’s top offseason priority. Ryan has one year and $19.25 million left on the five-year, $103.75 million extension he signed in July of 2013.
“Initial talks are positive, of course,” Dimitroff said, without getting into specific financial figures. “We both know where Matt needs to be. … He wants to be here. As I’ve said, I don’t think it’s a complicated situation. It’s significant. We’re just going to have to be mindful of not stressing too much about the timing of it. Our drive is to get it done, obviously, soon. And I can see it getting done in the relatively near future. But I’m not fretting if it’s delayed.”
Ryan, the third-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, carries a cap number of $21.65 million for 2018. Signing him to an extension would lower that figure significantly and open up more room for the Falcons to either re-sign their own pending free agents or be more active with free agents on the market.
With free agency set to begin March 14, Dimitroff was asked about any urgency to get the deal done.
“Of course, everyone wants to get certain deals done before free agency,” Dimitroff said. “That said, you can’t necessarily cajole or force the quarterback and his representation and the market to settle and play out just because we want to get it done. That’s something where I don’t get too tied up in the conversation about having this done by the beginning of free agency.”
The market for quarterbacks continues to soar with Detroit’s Matthew Stafford earning a new contract worth $27 million per year to top all quarterbacks in September, only to be surpassed by San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo receiving $27.5 million per year from the 49ers this month. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles also received a new deal worth more than $17 million per year. Stafford still tops the league with $92 million guaranteed in a five-year extension negotiated by Condon.
It might be in Ryan’s best interest to wait it and out and see what a quarterback such as free agent Kirk Cousins receives following the Garoppolo deal. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is set for a new lucrative deal, too, and likely will top them all.
Dimitroff talked about the escalating price of quarterbacks approaching $30 million per year.
“It’s amazing to see where the cap has gone over the last 10 and 12 years and where the quarterback numbers are, and where other numbers are as we start looking at franchise tag numbers and such,” Dimitroff said. “It’s just unbelievable. Hopefully this sport continues to grow, as it has, and we’ll be looking at these numbers that are right around the corner in five years and we’ll be amazed that they were that low for quarterbacks.”
In other news, Dimitroff said the team expects two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe to sign a lucrative deal elsewhere after joining the Falcons on a one-year, $8 million deal last season. Poe had 39 tackles, four tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, and 10 quarterback hits for the Falcons after starting his career with Kansas City.
“Did a heck of a job for us this year,” Dimitroff said. “We really liked his impact for us – especially in the run game – understanding that it may be a one-year deal. We’re in a spot right now where there’s a very good chance that he’s going to go to free agency and land a very lucrative deal. So we appreciate what he has done with us.”
Dimitroff said the Falcons are looking into extension for nose tackle Grady Jarrett, left tackle Jake Matthews, and restricted free agent free safety Ricardo Allen. The team also is expected to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive end Vic Beasley Jr., Dimitroff said.
New Orleans Saints activate WR Tre’Quan Smith off injured reserve
METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints‘ receiving corps keeps getting healthier by the week.
Third-year receiver Tre’Quan Smith was activated off of injured reserve Saturday — a day before the Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a divisional-round playoff game — after fellow receivers Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris returned from IR last week. Smith missed the past three games with an ankle injury before returning to practice this week.
Smith caught a career-high 34 passes for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games this season. But the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is equally valuable as one of New Orleans’ best downfield blockers in the run game.
The Saints also placed backup guard/center Will Clapp on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday after he learned of a positive test and missed practice on Friday. No other players were placed on the list Saturday after contract tracing.
The Saints elevated guard/center Cameron Tom and linebacker Chase Hansen from their practice squad to the active roster. They also re-signed emergency backup kicker Blair Walsh and long-snapper John Denney to their practice squad and released wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and defensive end Anthony Zettel.
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Pittsburgh Steelers expected to promote Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, source says
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers didn’t have to search far for their new offensive coordinator.
The team is expected to promote quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Known for his creativity in playcalling and design, Canada has been the Steelers’ quarterbacks coach for just one season, but he has plenty of experience on the collegiate level.
With Canada running the Panthers’ offense in 2016, Pitt led the nation in red zone touchdown percentage (82%) and scored at least 28 points in all 12 regular-season games.
He also previously worked with Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner at NC State, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
Canada had been a candidate for the Miami Dolphins‘ offensive coordinator opening. NFL Network first reported that the Steelers were turning to Canada to lead the offense.
Canada’s return could signal that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is returning for the 2021 season because the veteran would be familiar with the offense and coaching style — important factors in the final years of his career.
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