The Atlanta Falcons defensive line is one of the worst units in the NFL in terms of pass rushing and run defending. Adding more talent should be imperative for the Falcons moving forward on their defensive line. Grady Jarrett is great, but he’s the only one with any sort of super star talent. The rest of the line is average at best. That needs to change moving forward.
DL Grady Jarrett: 1 year, $23.833 million left on his contract
DL Marlon Davidson: 2 years, $4.085 million left on his contract
NT Tyeler Davison: 1 year, $5.013 million left on his contract
DL Ta’Quon Graham: 3 years, $3.083 million left on his contract
EDGE/DL John Cominsky: 1 year, $1.087 million left on his contract
DL Nick Thurman: 1 year, $825,000 left on his contract
The Falcons have one of the best defensive line talents in the league in Grady Jarrett. However, his contract situation for the long term should be addressed. In extending Jarrett, they can create more cap space for the 2022 season and lock up one of the best defenders on the roster. Marlon Davidson, Ta’Quon Graham and John Cominsky are all solid depth guys, but shouldn’t be more than that moving forward based on their play.
The biggest move the Falcons should make is cutting Tyeler Davison. He’s been inactive for almost half the games this season. When he has been active, he’s been outplayed by Mike Pennel and Anthony Rush. The Falcons should let the former Saint walk and save the $3.5 million that they would save from the move. That money would be better spent on another player that could actually compete for a starting role and not just a low-talent rotation player.
With the amount that it cost to bring him back, Nick Thurman is a good candidate for a re-sign. He isn’t expensive and will allow the Falcons to have some more depth along the front of the line.
Restricted Free Agents:
NT Anthony Rush
Anthony Rush was a huge surprise for the Falcons in the 2021 season as a competent, cheap nose tackle for the rotation. The Falcons shouldn’t tender him, but they should try and re-sign him for a minimum deal like they did with Younghoe Koo before free agency starts.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
DL Jonathan Bullard
NT Mike Pennel
Jonathan Bullard and Mike Pennel played quite a few snaps for the Falcons in 2021. They should be allowed to walk in 2022. Neither one was impactful, and both are replacement-level guys. Atlanta would be better off spending the money on other players.
The biggest need for the Falcons in the coming draft and free agency periods will be on the defensive line. They need someone who can help Grady Jarrett create interior pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Focusing on the free agents available, someone like Akiem Hicks, Ndamukong Suh, or Jadeveon Clowney for a deal that averages around $7-8 million per year for 2-3 years makes a ton of sense for the Falcons.
Potential Future Need
The Falcons could end up striking out on the extension attempt for Grady Jarrett in the offseason. If they do, they could potentially move on from the excellent defensive tackle after 2022, and this would create a huge need for the team. Players in the draft that could signal a potential long-term move away from Jarrett include DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M. However, the Falcons could still get Leal and keep Jarrett and end up with a pair of wreckers on the interior.
What the Plan Should Be Moving Forward
Moving forward, the Atlanta Falcons biggest move along the defensive line should be to extend Grady Jarrett and lower his cap hit for 2022 while extending him through 2026. After they do that, focusing on high-level talent in the draft like Aidan Hutchinson or DeMarvin Leal makes a ton of sense. The Falcons should also look for mid-round options at nose tackle who can also pass rush. Guys like Travis Jones from Connecticut or Phidarian Mathis from Alabama would be high on the list.