Falcons contract extension candidates entering offseason

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For the first time in what feels like forever, the Falcons will have plenty of cap space this offseason to be big players in free agency. There are more than a handful of areas that are in desperate need of upgrading. Every level of the defense could use an influx of talent, and despite the offense impressing in some areas, it is devoid of depth and top-end talent in a couple of units. Free agency will finally be exciting for Falcons fans, but the organization will also use the offseason as an opportunity to hand out contract extensions. Here are the candidates:

Chris Lindstrom

I’m not sure there’s a more deserving player than Lindstrom. He earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career this season, and I expect him to earn All-Pro honors following the year. Lindstrom is incredibly effective as a run blocker in Arthur Smith’s offense, and the front office recognized that when they picked up his fifth-year option, which will pay him north of $13 million in 2023. Still, that doesn’t mean the Falcons can’t get out in front of things and lock him up long-term.

Elgton Jenkins‘ four-year, $68 million deal with the Packers is a good ballpark for what Lindstrom will likely command. He’s not as versatile as Jenkins, who has seamlessly stepped in as a tackle in the past, so something in the area of a four to five-year deal worth $15 million AAV seems fair.

Kaleb McGary

Unlike his draft classmate in Lindstrom, McGary didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up, and all he’s done is turn in a career season in a contract year. Though he’s set to test free agency, I expect him to be in Atlanta next season.

The former Washington Husky has struggled for most of his career, but development in this league is rarely linear. And with the less-than-stellar free agent tackle class, McGary is set to earn a pretty penny. In hindsight, the Falcons should’ve picked up his fifth-year option, but nobody was shocked when the club declined it.

Tackles don’t grow on trees, and even though he’s an average player at his position, it’s a premium one. He’ll garner more per year than Lindstrom despite being the worse player because he’s a tackle. McGary will likely draw multi-year deals, and the Falcons will have to give it to him because there’s no obvious upgrade on the free agent market.

A.J. Terrell

Terrell has blossomed into one of the better corners in the league, and much like McGary, it’s at a premium position. He won’t be cheap. Terrell shouldn’t garner market-setting money, but he’ll sniff close to $20 million per year in his next deal. And it would behoove the team to get this deal done first because all the market is going to do is go up. Following an All-Pro season, Terrell’s agent will be pointing to Denzel Ward and Jaire Alexander‘s respective deals in negotiations. The Falcons will likely be on the hook for a four or five-year, $16-20 million AAV deal.

Isaiah Oliver

Despite missing most of the 2021 season and early parts of the 2022 campaign, Oliver deserves another contract to stay in Atlanta. The Falcons former second-round pick hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, but he’s blossomed in the nickel role in Dean Pees’ defense. It’s such an important position in this defense because it requires such a diverse skill set. Oliver can tackle, blitz, cover in multiple schemes, etc. Additionally, you can never have enough corners in this league. He shouldn’t even get to test the free agent market; the Falcons should work out another short-term deal.

Olamide Zaccheaus

Zaccheaus was one of the team’s more reliable wideouts. Even though he’s set to test free agency this offseason, his situation isn’t as pressing as the other three. The Falcons have two elite pass catchers in Drake London and Kyle Pitts. And considering Zaccheaus won’t break the bank, it makes sense to bring him back at a team-friendly rate to complement London and Pitts. Still, the Falcons could upgrade the position through the draft and free agency.

Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire

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