Falcons extension candidates: Takk McKinley

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I’m wrapping up my list of Falcons’ extension candidates with the player that has the most to prove. If you missed any of the other installments to this series, click the links below.

Takk McKinley

McKinley began his career with a lot of promise, which is why he was pegged as a breakout candidate in just his second season. He wound up tallying a respectable seven sacks in 15 games that year. Still, it could have been a lot more, considering he had the second-highest pressure rate in the entire league, ahead of players like Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Khalil Mack. So there was even more hype entering his third year, but that didn’t translate into success.

The former 26th overall pick only had 3.5 sacks in 14 games (13 starts), highlighting a pass rush that underachieved for the majority of the year. As a result, the Falcons opted to decline his fifth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Given the amount of money pass rushers make these days, there was a case for Atlanta to pick up his option, even after an unproductive campaign. It’s unlikely there will be many quality pass rushers available in free agency willing to take one-year deals worth around $10 million, which is what McKinley would have been owed had the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option. However, with the way the Falcons last two fifth-year options panned out, it’s understandable why they avoided the risk.

Vic Beasley was a bust throughout most of his Falcons career, which didn’t change last year. Keanu Neal, who deserved to have his fifth-year option picked up based on his play, has now suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries, which guaranteed the more than $9 million owed to him this season. The Falcons probably didn’t want to be locked in to another contract they might end up regretting, but at the same time, McKinley could make them loathe that decision.

McKinley might not have the eye-popping statistics at this point in his career, but most would accept that the potential is apparent. He’s strong with a relentless motor, and his pressure rate is no fluke. He just has to put it all together, and he might be in his best position to do so this year.

For most of McKinley’s three-year career, the Falcons have done a miserable job addressing the defensive line. This season looks to be different, though. Atlanta replaced Vic Beasley with Dante Fowler Jr., which should be an upgrade. Grady Jarrett continues to take steps forward as he enters his fifth season, and Marlon Davidson could be a substantial addition. The rest of the group is littered with question marks. However, that’s already a significant improvement from what McKinley is used to having around him. Perhaps with other players able to create havoc, he can turn some of those pressures into sacks. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Falcons secondary could cover for more than a second, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe for that to happen, given what they currently have on the roster.

If McKinley can have a bounce-back campaign, the Falcons will attempt to bring him back, but that may not be possible, which is why declining his fifth-year option was such a bold statement. He will be an unrestricted free agent, and the Falcons are not going to be in a position with a lot of cap space, especially since the coronavirus is expected to cause the salary cap to decline sharply. If McKinley finally does have his breakout year, it will be tough for the Falcons to re-sign him. 


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