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Falcons, QB Ryan begin contract talks

Anxious to bury last year while positioning themselves for this and future years, the Atlanta Falcons have kicked off contract negotiations for their first-round pick, quarterback Matt Ryan.

The talks have only been preliminary, but they are ongoing, and most important, there is a common purpose.

Both sides are open to the idea of having an early timetable for the deal to avoid the holdouts that afflicted JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, the two quarterbacks drafted in the first round last year.

Atlanta and Ryan also have a familiar springboard for a new deal. Ryan's agents, Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, already negotiated the contract for the draft's No. 1 overall pick, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long. Condon and Dogra understand the complexities of a deal for a top pick, which should aid negotiations.

Similarly, in Baltimore, the Ravens also have begun negotiating a deal for their top pick, quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore and Atlanta each know that the sooner it gets a deal done, the better the chances are that its first-round pick would be prepared to play earlier in the season.

Earlier in the week, Flacco's agent Joe Linta met with the Ravens vice president of football administration, Pat Moriarty, and the two plan to schedule further contract talks Friday.

"We're trying to be proactive, and the Ravens felt the same way," Linta said Thursday. "This has nothing to do with Quinn and his deal (not getting done before camp started). This is what I and the Flacco family feel is the right way to approach things.

"Someone suggested, 'Aren't you painting yourself into a corner?' No, I'm not. I'm not sending (Flacco) into camp with an $8 dollar an-hour job."

Hardly. Flacco's contract will be worth more than the five-year, $20.2 million deal that Quinn signed. But Ryan's will be worth even more.

Last year's third overall pick, Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas, signed a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $22 million in guaranteed money. Premiums – i.e., more – always are paid for quarterbacks, and Ryan is going to cash in however the deal is structured.

The deal will take plenty of work. It probably will not get done until July anyway. But talks are under way.

Keep your eye on...

Some of the league's top quarterbacks somehow slipped into the draft's later rounds.

New England's Tom Brady, Seattle's Matthew Hasselbeck, St. Louis' Marc Bulger and Cleveland's Derek Anderson each were, improbably and incredibly, sixth-round picks.

Now there are some in the league who believe that Minnesota's fifth-round pick, former USC quarterback John David Booty, could have the chance to prove he was another player who slipped further than he should have.

Booty is known more for his accuracy and decisions than his arm strength, which could play perfectly in Minnesota. The Vikings have the league's top running back tandem in Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. As long as their quarterback makes few mistakes, Minnesota will be difficult to defend and beat.

It is why some people believe that, before this season is through, Booty could get the chance to play for the Vikings – possibly even start. Incumbent quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will have his say in training camp, that's for sure, but some still maintain that Booty could play as quickly as any rookie quarterback in this year's class.

The education of a vacation

Last year, Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin suggested that each rookie be required to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The NFL liked the idea so much it adopted it.

This summer, each rookie will travel to Canton to see and touch the history of the game. The league believes it will educate each rookie to the type of greatness that can be, and has been, achieved. It will be more of an education than a vacation. And it will be one that the league now will mandate to each of its incoming rookie classes.

The arms race

Any team still looking for another quarterback has some intriguing choices, most notably former Raider Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper -- convinced he will be better this season now that he is two seasons removed from his knee surgery -- has been in contact with a handful of teams. But he is being selective, waiting for the right opportunity with the right team.

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