Falcons “surface level interest” in Deshaun Watson wasn’t exactly that

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I’m sure Falcons fans are tired of reading about the Deshaun Watson fiasco, but when new information comes to light or reaffirms prior beliefs, we must acknowledge it. The Atlanta media thrashed Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot, and Arthur Blank about their interest level. One reporter asked Fontenot whether he thought the Falcons were getting Watson. “There was never a time that we felt that we were going to have that player here,” Fontenot said, who refused even to name Watson. Blank infamously turned to the same damage control, downplaying the situation, saying the team spoke with Watson on a 75-minute phone call, and that was it. If Watson had decided he wanted to play in Atlanta, “We would have done a lot more work. But we did do work,” Blank said.

The reality is much different. We know how close the Falcons were to landing Watson, who corresponded with Leonard Fournette and Jarvis Landry over FaceTime about joining forces in Atlanta.

Here’s an illustration of how close the Falcons were to getting quarterback Deshaun Watson: Several sources say Watson corresponded with free agents Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette about playing together in Atlanta, very possibly over FaceTime. As of Thursday night, the feeling was Watson expected to go to Atlanta. And Atlanta thought it had Watson, who was considering the pass-catching weapons who could join him there — until Cleveland came with a deal that would be nearly impossible to refuse.

Now, information reaffirms what most of us already knew: when the Falcons regime suggested their interest level was only at the surface level, that was a lie. In a recent article from The Athletic, Zac Keefer shed light on the situation.

What few knew during that first week of free agency: While Atlanta was openly courting Watson, they were quietly shopping Ryan. Kyle Smith, the Falcons’ assistant general manager, had reached out to his counterpart in Indianapolis, Ed Dodds, wanting to gauge the Colts’ interest in the 36-year-old. For the majority of their pursuit, most within the Falcons’ building assumed Watson was theirs. Smith was looking for a way to move the franchise’s all-time leading passer.

“Most within the Falcons’ building assumed Watson was theirs.” That is pretty black and white for Atlanta believing the next era in Falcons football would be with Deshaun Watson as the signal caller. Falcons brass has continued to downplay their interest and dodge the difficult questions the media rightfully has asked. And I know this feels like beating a dead horse, but Arthur Blank, in particular, needs to answer for the team’s pursuit of a player with the off-the-field issues that Watson had.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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