Falcons enter camp with draft picks signed, not Ryan
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons finished up one minor signing and one fairly significant signing on Wednesday, the eve of training camp, while one major contract extension remains in limbo.
Seventh-round pick Sean Renfree, a quarterback out of Duke, signed on Wednesday as did first-round pick Desmond Trufant, a cornerback out of Washington who is favored to start.
Since Thomas Dimitroff became the Falcons’ general manager in 2008, the team has only had one minor contract dispute during camp: a relatively brief holdout by wide receiver Roddy White in 2009. The signings on Wednesday secured -- for the most part -- that camp will begin harmoniously on Thursday.
“It’s good to be here on time,” Trufant said as he spoke to the media in front of one the dormitories on the practice facility’s campus. “Just excited to be here and ready to work now. Just checking in and going through the basics now. ... It’s just time to work now.”
Looming over the training camp is the status of an extension for starting quarterback Matt Ryan. Some expected the deal to be done in the spring; however, the process has dragged on without an agreement. Experts say the guaranteed portion of Ryan’s contract could range between $58 and $62 million with the overall value well north of $100 million.
In his words and in his deeds, Ryan is the consummate team player and to this point he has resisted hardball negotiating tactics. That continued on Wednesday, as WSB reported that Ryan reported to camp on time. Failing to show up for the first day of camp would have been greatly out of character for him and would have put stress on the image he has worked so diligently to craft both in the media but also within the confines of the locker room. He is scheduled to speak with the media on Friday.
Most importantly for the team is whether Ryan concludes a deal that could give the Falcons more cap room for the coming season. Presently, the team is essentially capped out. However, if he and the Falcons can strike a creative deal, management might yet have room to sign one of the few remaining free-agent veterans on defense who could help to make an impact.
One of the biggest names out there is defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who played at the University of Georgia and who has been training at a gym in Gwinnett County. Starting defensive tackle Corey Peters was asked on Thursday whether the team’s negotiations with Seymour would motivate him.
“No, I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can,” said Peters, who missed the first six games of last season because of an offseason injury. “I know if I don’t get the job done, somebody will so that’s all the motivation I need. But I’m open to anything that going to make this team play better.”
Peters also said that last season -- when the Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship Game and lost 28-24 to San Francisco despite driving to the 49ers’ 10-yard line in the final minute -- was now behind him.
Among the biggest storylines at camp will be that of the right side of the offensive line, which could end up with three different players at center, guard and tackle compared to what the Falcons’ finished last season with. Long-time veterans Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure are gone with a number of younger players vying for their spots.
“I feel good about it,” said Garrett Reynolds, a fifth-year player who is vying for the job at right guard, where he has started 13 games over the past two seasons. “I know the offense and I’ve had great mentors like Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo and even Harvey Dahl and just watching those guys lead and have them mentor me as I’ve grown into the player I’ve become has been great for me. I think I’m ready to take that step.”
Reynolds’ 2012 season was marred by a bad back. He said his back is fine.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith always says the team’s No. 1 goal in training camp is to come out healthy when the season starts. To that end, the Falcons are in good shape in that department but something almost inevitably goes wrong.
When it does, the rest of camp will help to determine how well the Falcons will negotiate those particular challenges.