You heard it hear first about Niles Paul breaking out if this move took place this offseason. The free agent tight end is expected to hear from the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Recently with the Washington Redskins, Paul is a versatile tight end that could wind up being used as an H-back: from the in-line position, to being split out wide, to even getting some snaps as a fullback in certain formations.
The link with the Falcons comes from new offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, who got the chance to coach Paul in Washington a few years ago. Entering his 5th year in the league, Paul went from #3 on the depth chart, to become the backup, to starting 7 games in the absence of Jordan Reed in 2014. That for one, would be a good reason for the Redskins to try to keep him around, partly because of the constant concussions that Reed continues to suffer. Paul’s best game of the season went for 8 catches, 99 yards and his lone touchdown of 2014. Granted, the Redskins had a carousel at the helm.
A tight end that can be used in the passing game has been something the Falcons have been missing since the departure of Tony Gonzalez. The future Hall of Famer left the field for the broadcast booth, but this possibly signing could re-open the Falcons’ offense again. After moving on from #3 receiver Harry Douglas, not a move that I endorse, the shift is beginning to change as the new regime gets acclimated and evaluates the roster. Although Roddy White is still productive, it always seems like the 33-year-old is dealing with some issue to play through. I thought the right move would have been keeping Douglas around, but we’re past that point now.
I really liked what I saw from him as a receiver, and his smooth ability to get yards after the catch downfield too. Paul found ways to get open and even got some opportunities to be featured. I think he proved himself in limited action despite the team’s offensive woes. I mean, even leading receiver DeSean Jackson wasn’t used enough, so you can attribute most of the blame at the quarterbacks and play-calling. Paul is no Tony G, but a target that would fit well as the third option behind one of the most elite receiver tandems in football, White and Julio Jones.
I’m sure Matt Ryan can’t wait for the day to start throwing passes to a tight end again. Levine Toilolo, no offense, he’s a blocking tight end without any backup that can contribute through the air. Aside from the potential that I see Paul possesses, having a top-10 quarterback means that the volume of opportunities will be there. Ryan is a passer that will get him involved, as he did with his former third option in Douglas. And if you recall, every Shanahan offense uses the tight end as more than just a safety valve or last resort option. Don’t get me wrong, he’s far from a polished product, so don’t expect him to challenge the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. But not everybody has to be at that level at 25 years of age, and the Falcons’ offense is a great one for him grow with in this league, so for him I hope he’s on his way to the dirty south.