The Atlanta Falcons got their second win of the season on Thursday Night Football against the Carolina Panthers, moving Atlanta's record to 2-6 on the season. Despite winning the game, it is still clear that the Falcons need to blow it up and rebuild.
The Falcons window of opportunity closed several years ago, and it’s time for them to accept that fate and sell their big pieces at the deadline to help jumpstart the rebuild.
While many fans have attachments to players like Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, they should be the first players to move if the team does decide to start over. President and CEO Rich McKay is the interim general manager, but owner Arthur Blank may not let him make big moves such as trading away players of their stature.
When healthy, Jones is still one of the best receivers in the NFL and should command a first-round pick in return for his services. He is under contract for the next three years. Jones has 38 catches for 584 yards and two touchdowns this season, although he's missed two games with a hamstring injury.
Ryan, on the other hand, has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league over his 13-year career, but has not always been able to win at a high level. There are several teams on the cusp of winning in need of an upgrade at the quarterback position, and Atlanta should be willing to negotiate with them.
The 13-year vet had the best season of his career under Kyle Shanahan, who is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. While Jimmy Garoppolo is the quarterback for the 49ers, there are questions about whether he is the guy to win them a Super Bowl.
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Trading Ryan would allow the next head coach and general manager to get a clean start when they enter the organization. The Falcons probably won't be in line for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields because of their likely draft position, but they could look at Trey Lance from North Dakota State.
As far as this season goes, The Falcons should look at trading away pieces like Takkarist McKinley or even Todd Gurley II to contenders for middle- to late-round draft picks. The former is on his last stand with the team and isn’t likely to be re-signed. The latter signed a one-year deal in the offseason and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with eight.
The Falcons window of opportunity has closed, and it is time to start a new era.