Instead, Atlanta turned to tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida, even with top QBs Mac Jones and Justin Fields still on the board.
According to NFL insider Benjamin Albright, the Falcons planned to take a quarterback with the No. 4 pick, but the one they wanted was drafted at No. 3 overall by the San Francisco 49ers––North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
When questioned whether or not this report was accurate or not, Albright was quick to bite back to say he has head coaches and general manager phone numbers.
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Arthur Smith Reveals Why He Passed on Taking a QB at No. 4
In a blockbuster trade, the Niners traded up nine spots with the Miami Dolphins to snag Lance, which left the Falcons with the next best thing––the most athletic player of the 2021 draft class.
“Everything was on the table,” coach Arthur Smith explained why they picked Lance over the other quarterbacks during an appearance on “The Chris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman” back in June. “So, we did our due diligence with all of the quarterbacks and everybody who we thought would be available at No. 4, and it is a big decision. It was a very unusual year and there were a lot of quarterbacks, and who knows how the future plays out for all those guys, but just because you’re picking in the top five doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the right quarterback. … We feel really good about Kyle Pitts and what that does for the future.”
Smith also emphasized Pitts’s versatility. He’s not just your ‘Average Joe’ tight end since he can double as a wide receiver.
“Kyle is certainly a unique player,” Smith said. “They (Florida) played him all over the place. I was really impressed watching him, the film, what Dan Mullen did and how they used him at Florida. Because usually, you’re pretty skeptical when you see a tight end graded that high and you’re watching the film and doing your due diligence and you realize he’s a very unique player. He can do more than what a traditional tight end can do. We’ve got high expectations for him and he’s got the right mindset.”
At the end of the day, giving Ryan another weapon to throw to with Julio Jones off to Tennessee seemed to be the right move, especially since Ryan will be around until at least 2023.
Instead of sitting the entire season behind the Niners’ starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance has seen some action and has had his first NFL start already. Heading into Week 7, he has thrown for 345 yards, three TDs and one interception as a rookie.
Matt Ryan’s Contract Ends After the 2023 Season
The Falcons restructured Ryan’s contract for the second time this past March and like it or not, the team is “stuck” with Ryan for at least two more seasons.
Atlanta converted $23 million of his base salary into just $2 million in base salary and the rest as a bonus, so it will spread out over the next three seasons. This means Ryan’s contract won’t be up until after the 2023 season comes to an end.
But being “stuck” with Ryan has not been a bad thing for Atlanta. At 36-years-old and working under a new offense, Ryan has thrown for a total of 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions so far this season.
The Falcons could now turn to his future successor in the 2022 draft or possibly continue to groom Feleipe Franks into a starter.