NFC Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Saints


  • According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons coaching staff thinks QB Matt Ryan will be much better if they can improve the pass protection in front of him, which has struggled the past three seasons. 
  • Ledbetter mentions the new coaching staff was also caught off guard by how little they saw WR Julio Jones on practice tape from last season. 
  • Falcons QB A.J. McCarron‘s one-year, $1.212 million deal includes a $137,500 signing bonus and a base salary of $1.075 million base salary. (Aaron Wilson)
  • Falcons DBs coach Jon Hoke said rookie CB Avery Williams will begin the offseason program as a cornerback but could move inside to the nickel role as well. (Michael Rothstein)


Panthers HC Matt Rhule said he is comfortable going forward with Sam Darnold and feels acquiring the quarterback helped enable them to draft CB Jaycee Horn at No. 8 overall. 

I love those guys and I think they’re gonna be great NFL players. I just think for us, when we got Sam and knowing he’s 23-years-old, just turned 24, we just felt like Sam plus another player would be better for the team overall,” Rhule said, via Grant Gordon of’re just trying to build the whole team and I just believe in Sam, I believe that he deserves the opportunity to go out and play with us. I think those other young quarterbacks are gonna be fantastic players, but the hit rate on first-round quarterbacks isn’t real, real high, and to have a chance to get Jaycee Horn and have Sam Darnold, we just kind of felt like, ‘Hey this is two for one.’ Now, we just have to make sure Sam’s a great player for us.”

Rhule compared Darnold to Rams QB Matthew Stafford and feels he saw enough “shining moments” to justify the trade. 

I can’t remember what we were watching a cut of and Sam was playing on the other side of the ball and a couple times he made some throws and Phil Snow, our defensive coordinator, was like, ‘Man, that kid looks like Matt Stafford.’ And so, we put a couple games on, this is the defensive staff and they were all like, ‘You know what, every game we watch, he makes a couple of big-time plays,’ and there has to be some meat on the bone there,” Rhule said. “So, kind of went through the process and kept watching him and going back and watching him in college and watching his pro day and then going back and watching his first year in a different offense and the second year and his third year. So, when the compensation was enough where we didn’t have to give up what we thought was too much that would hurt our team and a chance to get him here, we’d watched so much tape on him that we saw enough shining moments.”


  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe says the Saints and Cardinals had a deal in place to swap picks in the first round if QB Mac Jones got past the Patriots at No. 15. 
  • Now that the period to sign qualifying free agents is over, Over The Cap’s Nick Korte projects the Saints to receive a fourth and a sixth-round compensatory pick for the loss of DE Trey Hendrickson and DT Sheldon Rankins
  • Korte adds the fourth-rounder can become a third if Hendrickson beats his four-year snap average of 32.8 percent. 
  • He also explains a scenario where if Saints DE Tanoh Kpassagnon plays enough snaps, he could qualify as a top-32 compensatory pick, which would take away the sixth New Orleans is set to receive for Rankins. 
  • Aaron Wilson reports that former Texans’ assistant director of pro personnel C.J. Leak is being hired by the Saints.

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