WATCH: Kyle Pitts learns Falcons select him in 2021 NFL Draft

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Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, the Falcons were beginning a new era in the organization’s history.

With Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff out, Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot were in, giving the fan base hope for the first time in years.

Would they try to maximize Matt Ryan‘s twilight years? Would they find his successor in a loaded quarterback class?

The plan became obvious when they made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and the moment is surreal to look back on:

Pitts, with a veteran quarterback, lived up to the enormous hype. The Florida product put up 1,026 yards on 68 receptions while breaking records en route to a Pro Bowl.

However, poor quarterback play and injuries have limited Pitts’ production since that incredible rookie campaign. Over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the Falcons tight end only recorded 1,023 yards on 81 receptions.

Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Arthur Smith, and Pitts’ knee are all to blame. Entering his fourth season, there’s a big decision for the Falcons to make this offseason — Pitts’ fifth-year option.

The first-round picks from 2021 need their fifth-year options exercised by early May, and it seems obvious that Atlanta will pick up Pitts‘. There’s palpable excitement surrounding the Falcons and their unicorn of a tight end in 2024.

First and maybe most importantly, Pitts is expected to be healthier in 2024, another year removed from the knee injury. Additionally, Zac Robinson is regarded as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game and is expected to be an upgrade over Arthur Smith.

Kirk Cousins is now in the fold, though. And that might trump any other factor. Cousins will be by far the best quarterback Kyle Pitts has played with since his rookie year. There’s reason to be optimistic about his future in Atlanta after a historical night a few years ago.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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