Since the San Francisco 49ers jetted up to No. 3 and the likelihood of quarterbacks going one, two and three in the 2021 NFL Draft is a virtual certainty, the spotlight’s landed on the team with the fourth pick: the Atlanta Falcons.
On the surface, trying to find the successor for 36-year-old quarterback Matt Ryan seemed to make sense. Quarterbacks going to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Niners and Falcons seemed possible.
Not so fast, my friend. The insane cap numbers for Ryan the next few years make him nearly impossible to trade and – more importantly – nearly impossible to sit. So if the Falcons were to take a quarterback this year, he’d almost certainly be on the sideline until 2023 while Ryan and his cap hits of $27M, $49M and $44M played on.
Who wants to unveil a top-five draft pick three years into his career? Nobody. So the Falcons are kinda stuck.
The window for moving on from Ryan with anything close to acceptable damage will come after June 1, 2022 via trade. (H/t to Over The Cap, which kills it with the cap numbers). Then, the Falcons' dead cap hit would be $25M and the team dealing for him will be on the hook for his $16M salary. Not great.
So it’s no surprise word’s out via the MMQB's Albert Breer that the Falcons are in “exploratory talks” about trading back.
Are the Patriots part of the exploration? You’d have to presume they are. But if the Falcons are doing business correctly, their first call would go to the Carolina Panthers, holders of the No. 8 overall pick, then the Denver Broncos (No. 9).
The Patriots down at 15? They’re going to have to come with the goods to convince owner Arthur Blank to let bygones be bygones about Super Bowl LI and the “28-3” message in the Patriots' Super Bowl ring -- which “pissed (him) off” -- to get in position for their pick of the litter.
So while it may have felt good at the time when the Patriots were knocking off the Arizona Cardinals and Jets at the buzzer, now is the time to officially lament those pyrrhic victories. And the Baltimore Ravens one too, if you so choose. Without all three, the Patriots would be in the top five and not noodling over whether or not they want to get up in the draft.
What would it hypothetically cost New England to go from 15 to four? The fourth pick is worth 491 points on the trade value chart. The 15th is worth 315 points. Add to that the 46th (128 points) and 96th (39 points) and you are in the neighborhood.
But the trade executed by San Francisco to get up to No. 3 – a first-round swap this year to No. 12, a compensatory third-rounder then their first round picks in 2022 and 2023 means the Falcons would laugh the Patriots out of the room if they just went by points.
The upshot? There might be no shot for the Patriots to get into the top five.