What is the value of Shrine Bowl week for the Falcons? “We Get the Secrets”

LAS VEGAS – It’s hard to walk the vast maze of hallways at the Luxor Hotel & Casino without encountering a football player, and Terry Fontenot loves it.

“Seeing them in the cafeteria and on the pass and seeing how they behave is really valuable,” the Falcons general manager said Tuesday. “There are a lot of good football players in this game, so it’s really good to get that kind of access.”

Fontenot and nearly all of the Falcons’ coaches met east-west shrine bowls this week in preparation for Thursday night at the Luxor and UNLV football fields in Henderson, Nev. While the Falcons coaches prepare the eastern team, Fontenot scouts the field for prospects and holds freelance and draft prep sessions with his staff.

Historically, a quarter of players in this game get drafted and 25 percent more eventually make an NFL roster, Fontenot said.

“There are a lot of good football players out here and it was great for us to get a different approach than the other 30 teams,” he said. “It makes a big difference. The time we spend here with them gets some really, really valuable information, so that makes a big difference. There’s a lot of levels of information that we get, but if you’re over a whole week Spending that much time with them, you’ll learn a lot. It starts with the makeup. That’s the most important thing for us.”

The New England Patriots staff train the West team, and the two staffers are working across the hall this week in some of the limited space at the Luxor not occupied by the casino.

Falcons linebackers coach Frank Bush, who serves as defensive coordinator for the East team, declined this week to name which players he had noticed.

“Part of the staffing is that we get the secrets and we don’t give them to the other teams,” Bush said. “There were some things that stood out, some things that were impressive.”

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Quarterbacks coach Charles London is the only Falcons assistant not in Las Vegas this week. London serves as the offensive coordinator in the Senior Bowl, which allows the Falcons to keep tabs on those prospects as well. Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith is also in Mobile.

Although this week is mostly filled with working with prospects who could be Falcons in the future, the most pressing business for the team is with the players currently on the roster, Fontenot said.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary, linebacker Rashaan Evans, outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, tight ends Parker Hesse and MyCole Pruitt, cornerback Isaiah Oliver, punter Bradley Pinion and wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus — all of whom played significant roles in 2022 — are unrestricted free agents.

“There are some guys that we can take down quickly,” Fontenot said. “You have to be patient with some guys, but you won’t talk about anyone.”

The refusal to discuss details also extends to right-back Chris Lindstrom, who has a year left on his rookie contract but could secure a new deal before the start of the 2023 season.

“We will not negotiate in the media, but the first phase for us is to go through contracts and work on some players in our building,” Fontenot said. “You look at our games this year and I thought we’ve really grown on offense and we really appreciate that. Those lines of scrimmage will always be our priority.”

After signing their own players, the Falcons will turn their attention to the free-agent market, Fontenot said, where they are expected to invest heavily in defense. According to Over the Cap, Atlanta is expected to have more than $55 million in cap space next season, more than any other team in the league except for the Chicago Bears.

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Despite having so much money, the Falcons will still be sensible lenders, Fontenot said.

“We will still sign one-year contracts,” said Fontenot. “It’s something very valuable. Just because you have more cap space doesn’t change the process. There will be some players that you’ll want to sign up for one-year contracts and some that you’ll want to sign up for multi-year contracts, but we need to make sure we know exactly who they are as people before we put them in this building.

Fontenot dodged the topic of rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who started in his last four games last season but has received no assurances he will be the starting quarterback next season.

“It’s super valuable (to have a starting quarterback with a rookie contract) but you try your best to win football games,” Fontenot said. “There are teams that have won with experienced quarterbacks with big contracts. There are teams that have won with rookie quarterbacks. It’s about building the best possible team.”

(Photo by Terry Fontenot: Dale Zanine / USA Today)

https://theathletic.com/4144632/2023/02/01/falcons-terry-fontenot-shrine-bowl/ What is the value of Shrine Bowl week for the Falcons? “We Get the Secrets”

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