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  • 06 Aug
    The team’s strongside linebacker will be a free agent in
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    ✕Falcons LB De’Vondre Campbell speaks about heading into contract year
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    ,77commentsThe team’s strongside linebacker will be a
    free agent in 2020. EDTShareTweetShareShareFalcons LB De’Vondre Campbell speaks
    about heading into contract year Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsIt’s hard to
    believe, but we’re entering the contract years of the Atlanta Falcons’
    illustrious 2016 draft class. The fiery rookie group who helped propel the team
    to an NFC Championship will all need new contracts here soon, with only safety
    Keanu Neal locked in for 2020 on the fifth-year option. The team has had
    preliminary talks with elite linebacker Deion Jones on a new contract, but what
    about De’Vondre Campbell? The team’s strongside linebacker spoke with the St.
    Paul Pioneer Press about his pending contract season. Campbell is arguably the
    most underrated and under-appreciated member of the Falcons defense (if not the
    team). He’s as stout in coverage as you’d hope, and he plays the run better than
    most at the position. He also had to assume the veteran’s role in the
    linebacking core last season when Debo went down to keep that unit afloat. You
    just don’t find players like Campbell in the fourth round every day; he’s been
    an absolute steal for the team and, in an ideal world, would get handsomely paid
    to play for the Falcons for years to come. Whether the team can afford to keep
    him at the price he deserves will be another story. Jones, Neal and Austin
    Hooper will all need new contracts in the immediate future, and the team still
    needs to get Grady Jarrett’s deal done and extend Julio Jones. Vic
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    , Matt Bosher and Jack Crawford will also be up for
    discussion as free agents in March 2020. Truth be told, it’s not going to be
    possible to keep all of these names around. Campbell will no doubt be seeking an
    uptick in his play to be at his best in a year when he’s playing for his second
    contract; the better he is, the harder it will be for the Falcons to say
    goodbye. He deserves to be paid among the best strongside linebackers in the
    league, though it’ll just be a waiting game to see if the Falcons will be able
    to meet that. We’re excited to see how Campbell does this year, though we’re
    aware this might be his last in a Falcons uniform should his potential deal get
    out of the team’s reach. He’s earned the right to create that kind of situation.
    After spending the better part of three seasons as the defensive coordinator of
    the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith is set to
    pursue other career options. Smith told NFL reporter Alex Marvez of his
    intentions to leave the game and spend more time with his family. Smith, whose
    record of 66-46 makes him the winningest coach in Falcons history, steered the
    ship from 2008-2014 and oversaw Matt Ryan’s first six seasons in the league. His
    teams were too inconsistent to ever find more than one playoff win, though as
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    , they were often victorious. The franchise had five
    straight winning seasons during Smitty’s tenure (2008 through 2012) and four
    playoff berths during that splendid run. The team also hosted the NFC
    Championship game following the 2012 season, before the 2013 and 2014 collapse
    that ended Smith’s tenure with the team. Regardless of the lack of playoff
    success and his staff’s notorious ability to let certain offensive and defensive
    talents grow stagnant in development, Smitty was a wonderful leader and
    successful head coach for a half-decade of Falcons football, and we owe a lot to
    him for what he brought to the franchise after the tumult of the Michael Vick
    arrest and Bobby Petrino days.If the team doesn’t choke away the NFC
    Championship game to the Niners, the Falcons wind up facing the Ravens in the
    Super Bowl. That fact sums up Mike Smith’s tenure. He fielded a very good
    football team for a number of years that just didn’t have the tenacity to go all
    the way. His faults caught up to him in the end, as they have with many great
    coaches in the past. Sometimes, people cycle in and out of opportunities, and
    Smitty most definitely hit an impasse in Atlanta for where the expectations were
    after 2012.But he was still an important coach in the team’s history, and was on
    the ground floor to build the team culture that still stands today. He’s also
    got impeccable character and led this team the right way. So we wish Smith all
    the best in his future
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    , and thank him for his major contributions to the
    team. Though he’s not remembered as fondly for the hard years, let’s not forget
    the good ones, either. They were aplenty for some time, so, at least for today,
    let’s smile for the good times we had during his tenure over the team.