Once the Falcons firmly decided to hang onto Vic Beasley for one more
season and re-sign Grady Jarrett, the opportunity for Thomas Dimitroff
to make substantial moves in free agency became nothing more than a pipe
dream. They were able to make some quality additions; however, bringing
in James Carpenter and Jamon Brown on team-friendly deals to beef up
the interior of their offensive line. They also added Luke Stocker to
their tight-end group, re-signed Logan Paulsen, and brought in Kenjon
Barner to be their kick return specialist and a possible third-down back
option – all moves that will allow the Falcons to focus on defense
during the draft.
But the loss for Atlanta in free agency did not
come in the form of who they did or did not sign; it occurred because of
the lucrative multi-year deals that were being handed out like candy by
The Falcons will not be significant players in
free agency for the foreseeable future due to how well they have drafted
since Dan Quinn became the head coach. Their focus will remain on
keeping their young core intact while adding free agents sparingly where
they see fit. The former just got a lot tougher after this offseason.
Dimitroff and Company are currently trying to negotiate extensions with
Julio Jones and Grady Jarrett. Neither of those players will come
cheap, and they are only the beginning of what is set to be an onslaught
of young Falcons lining up to get paid. Deion Jones, Austin Hooper, Vic
Beasley, and De’Vondre Campbell are all set to be unrestricted free
agents at the end of the 2019 season. Keanu Neal will be playing under
his fifth-year option for over $9 million in 2020 and will want to be
paid handsomely once that concludes. In other words: there is no way the
Falcons can keep them all.
C.J. Mosley recently signed the most
lucrative deal for an inside linebacker by a longshot (5 years, $85
million). The Falcons have reportedly already begun the process of
negotiating a contract for their star middle linebacker, Deion Jones.
Indisputably, Jones and his agent are going to be using Mosley’s
contract as a starting point, as players so often do once it is their
turn to get paid. Jones is one of those integral pieces the Falcons will
not let go of, but it’s going to cost the team a pretty penny and will
result in the organization making a gut-wrenching decision on one of
their other players.
The same can be said for Keanu Neal. The
Falcons are not going to want to let their enforcer on the back-end –
who has meant so much to their defense since being drafted in 2016 –
walk. The problematic part is Landon Collins set the bar for safeties
this offseason, signing a 6-year, $84 million deal with the Redskins.
Atlanta may not have to match that offer, especially if Collins cannot
live up to it over the next couple seasons, but it is not going to be
That leaves the Falcons paying seven players: Matt Ryan,
Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, Jake Mathews, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones,
and Keanu Neal all well over $10 million per season, and that doesn’t
include the possibility of re-signing the likes of Vic Beasley, Austin
Hooper or De’Vondre Campbell.
Beasley is a likely candidate to
walk at the end of the season no matter what. The price for quality, or
even some not so quality, edge rushers has gone through the roof. If
Beasley cannot have a bounce-back campaign in his fifth season, the
Falcons are not going to be interested in re-signing him. If he does
have a year reminiscent to 2016, when he led the league in sacks, it
would be nearly impossible for the Falcons to sign him without the risk
of losing a player like Deion Jones or Keanu Neal.
is a player the Falcons want to keep. He’s improved every season since
being drafted in 2016 and reached his first Pro-Bowl last year. But when
seeing players like Jesse James, who has never sniffed 500 yards
receiving in a season, sign a contract for 4-years, $22 million; it
becomes increasingly difficult to see Hooper in a Falcons uniform past
To a lesser degree, the same can be said about De’Vondre
Campbell. The former fourth-round pick has exceeded all expectations,
becoming a full-time starter as a rookie in 2016. He had 94 tackles last
year, and the Falcons would love to hang onto him past 2019.
Unfortunately, that probably cannot happen. There’s a pecking order to
these pending free agents, and it looks something like this.