NFC Notes: Taylor Heinicke, Adam Thielen, Falcons, Panthers, Saints


After signing QB Kirk Cousins in free agency, the Falcons negotiated a pay cut with backup QB Taylor Heinicke to lower his cap number. Atlanta HC Raheem Morris mentioned keeping Heinicke around was still a priority.

“I don’t want to limit him to what he can be, but he has shown that he’s been an elite backup in this league,” Morris said, via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. “When you’re talking about an elite backup, a guy that comes in the game and can win you a game until your starter gets back and, boom, not miss a beat, right?”

“Not need the reps that’s required to go out there and play and execute. He’s shown all those things and the interest is always there.”


Panthers WR Adam Thielen had praise for his new HC Dave Canales ahead of the 2024 season. After a tough first year in Carolina, Thielen is hoping Canales can help get the offense back on track.

“Before he was hired, I really didn’t know a lot about him. I knew of him, didn’t know a lot about him,” Thielen said, via the Panther’s YouTube. “So, really, to hear his background, his coaching background, maybe the little bit of chip on his shoulder he has from being overlooked for a lot of years and what he’s able to do with a lot of different quarterbacks that he had in his room over the years—it really impressed me.”

“It all comes back to the energy he brings, the passion. You can tell he’s a real guy. One of the first conversations we had, I’m not gonna get into details, but he was extremely real with me and very honest and open. And you can really respect that. ‘Cause in this league, you don’t get a lot of that.”


When appearing on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast, Saints S Tyrann Mathieu had high praise of recently signed LB Willie Gay after playing alongside him in Kansas City. 

“It’s amazing. Like coach says, it clears up the picture for you,” Mathieu said. “He is athletic, man. I think in the game today, when you have linebackers who can run just as fast as a slot receiver, who can handle the Darren Wallers in space, like it gives your defense an advantage, you know what I mean?”

Mathieu is confident Gay will make a big impact on New Orleans’ defense. 

“He’s going to be big-time for us. I think him coming in on a one-year deal, that’s going to allow him to be hungry, to be motivated. I already reached out to him, kind of talked to him, and let him know,” Mathieu said. 

Mathieu described Gay as a linebacker with a lot of energy, a great teammate, and a critical player on third downs. 

“The city is going to love him. Because he is so high energy, right, all day long. I think the fans are going to love him. Obviously the team will love him. He’s a good dude, a great teammate, he’s one of those linebackers that you’ve got to find a spot for him,” Mathieu said. “On third downs, can’t take him off the field.”

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