Thursday May 6th, 2021 12:54PM

New Falcons GM Fontenot could select successor to QB Ryan

By The Associated Press

New Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot may use his first NFL draft pick on a quarterback. Longtime starter Matt Ryan will be 36 this season. Fontenot may consider quarterbacks Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance of North Dakota State with the No. 4 overall selection.

Fontenot and new coach Arthur Smith need a quarterback to play behind Ryan this season and possibly start in 2022. Running back also is a priority. The Falcons have nine draft picks. First-round options may also include Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

LAST SEASON: Coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were fired following an 0-5 start. The Falcons won three of their first four games under interim coach Raheem Morris but closed the season with five consecutive losses.

FREE AGENCY: Lost C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, RB Brian Hill, S Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee. Released RB Ito Smith, OG James Carpenter, S Ricardo Allen, DE Allen Bailey, QB Kurt Benkert. And QB Matt Schaub retired.

Signed: RB Mike Davis, S Erik Harris, CB Fabian Moreau, RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson, LB Barkevious Mingo, S Duron Harmon, OL Josh Andrews, DT Jonathan Bullard, LB Brandon Copeland, P Dom Maggio. Re-signed K Younghoe Koo, DE Steven Means, TE Jaeden Graham, DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, CB Tyler Hall, WR Christian Blake. Acquired (via trade) TE Lee Smith from Buffalo for 2022 seventh-round draft pick.



POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State, TE Kyle Pitts, Florida, OT Penei Sewell, Oregon, QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State.

OUTLOOK: The last time the Falcons entered the draft with a new general manager, Dimitroff made quarterback Matt Ryan the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. Newly hired GM Terry Fontenot may use his first draft pick in Atlanta to select Ryan's successor — even though the quarterback, who will be 36 this season, is still productive. A third consecutive losing season drove home the point that an offense led by Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley isn't enough to make up for such glaring weaknesses as a lack of pass protection and a weak pass rush. Fontenot and new coach Arthur Smith must find a quarterback who can play behind Ryan in 2021 and possibly take over the position in 2022. Atlanta also needs more help at running back, even after signing former Carolina backup Mike Davis. The Falcons enter the draft with nine picks and it wouldn't be a major surprise if Fontenot trades down in the first round to acquire more selections. The GM inherited a roster with many needs and no salary cap room to make aggressive moves in free agency.

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New Falcons GM Fontenot could select successor to QB Ryan
New Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot may use his first NFL draft pick on a quarterback.
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