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Arthur Blank reiterates that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones may not be back

NFL: NOV 29 Raiders at Falcons

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 29: Falcons team owner Arthur Blank paces the sidelines during the week 12 NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Las Vegas Raiders on November 29, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the Falcons search for a new General Manager and head coach, owner Arthur Blank continues to send the message that the incoming hires won’t be bound to quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.

“What I think is important, most important, is that we hire people who are, number one, the very best at their jobs,” Blank recently said during a season-ending press conference. “That goes without saying. Who will come forward with a plan for us to have a championship team, a competitive team, et cetera. And that may include Matt and Julio for now, for the next two years, three years, or may not. I have no idea.”

After the firing of coach Dan Quinn and G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, Blank made it clear that there’s no guarantee Ryan will return in 2021.

“Matt’s been a franchise leader for us,” Blank said at the time. “A great quarterback. One of the leading quarterbacks in the last 13 years in the NFL. So I hope he’s gonna be part of our plans going forward. But that will be a decision that I won’t make.”

Last month, CEO Rich McKay attached strings to the ability to move on from Ryan and/or Jones.

Give us a plan,” McKay said. “Show us what you want to do and show us why. Show us how this gets us to Ws and make sure you actually execute the plan.”

So while Blank seems willing to defer the judgment to the new G.M. and coach, McKay seems to be willing to reserve the right to object in the event the “plan” for winning without them isn’t persuasive. That plan will include building a roster around a cap charge of $44 million (the cap number for keeping him would be $40.9 million). For Jones, the cap charge to trade him would be $23.25 million; the cap charge to keep him would be $23.05 million.

As candidates interview for both jobs, it becomes critical to know precisely whether they’ll have the discretion to move Ryan and/or Jones, whether McKay will be able to veto it, and/or whether McKay will roll his eyes at Blank if they handle that or any other decision in a way he wouldn’t.

Actually, they should assume the last part to be true. And those candidates, frankly, should before accepting jobs in Atlanta look for jobs elsewhere that give them a straight shot to ownership, with no one else in position to approve or to undermine the decisions that they make in the best interests of the team.