I’m sure Matt Ryan let out a big sigh of relief on Thursday night after Roger Goodell announced the selection of Kyle Pitts instead of Mac Jones or Justin Fields. The decision to go that direction essentially cements Ryan’s role in Atlanta for at least the next couple of seasons, if not longer. Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot both seem to believe Ryan can be productive for the next 3-5 years.
“With Matt, I see a really high-quality starting quarterback who’s thrown for 55,000 yards in this league and had unbelievable experience and is still throwing guys open,” Smith said. “It doesn’t sound absurd anymore to say, ‘Hey, I want to play till I’m 40.’ If he didn’t want to play, that would be a different set of problems. We still may not have taken a quarterback at 4 because soon as you take one, if you take the wrong guy, there’s some bad unintended consequences because right away, it’s like, ‘There’s your quarterback of the future.’ And if you take the wrong guy just because you want to win the press conference tonight, it’s like . . .”
This was undoubtedly the Falcons’ best chance of drafting their quarterback of the future, and they passed on that opportunity due to their belief in Ryan, but what does the selection of Pitts mean for Julio Jones? Terry Fontenot admitted that they have been taking trade calls on the star wide receiver because of their unfavorable cap situation — not because of any disbelief in his abilities going forward. The Falcons still hold Jones in high regard, but if they receive the right value in a trade offer, which I believe would have to be a first-round pick, they still could move him before the start of the season.
If anything, adding Pitts makes it easier to trade Jones. Pitts has the potential to add a lot of the same mismatches in the offense. However, Arthur Smith and the rest of the organization have to be salivating at the idea of having Jones, Pitts, and Calvin Ridley on the field at the same time. The selection of Pitts is a bit of a double-edged sword — as far as Julio Jones is concerned — which is why I think Terry Fontenot is still open to potentially trading Jones, but it will likely take a team willing to overpay for a deal to get done.
Gun to my head — I believe Jones will be a Falcon next year. If Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are serious about competing — which they seem to be — the best way for them to do that is by holding on to arguably the best wide receiver in football. There are other ways for Atlanta to get under the salary cap, such as extending Grady Jarrett, allowing the Falcons to field the most competitive team they possibly can in 2021.