The pass rush has been a concern for Atlanta for far too long, and the future at the position is as cloudy as ever. The team has already made it known they will not pursue any negotiations with Vic Beasley as he enters free agency. At the Falcons’ Combine press conference, Dimitroff and Quinn blundered when asked if they would pick up Takk McKinley’s fifth-year option. They did not seem to be on the same page about the subject, and while they claim they are “still deciding” it’s rather obvious that he will not be in Atlanta for the long haul.
This was not a quality group to start with. Now, the Falcons have to go back to the drawing board, and it will not be a one-man fix. Atlanta has to either select two pass rushers or select one and bring in a free agent at the very least. The team has reportedly had interest in Dante Fowler, but I am not convinced he warrants the contract he will receive, nor will he be the solution Atlanta is hoping for. He is not a bad player by any means, but given Atlanta’s cap situation, it could be a risky move, and he would not be playing with nearly as much defensive talent around him.
The Falcons’ best move is probably to double-dip in the Draft, and it is a good year to do it. I am absolutely in love with the second tier of pass-rushing prospects that consists of Jose Uche, Bradlee Anae, and Jonathan Greenard. The good news is Atlanta is leaving no stone unturned in their search for pass-rushing at The Combine. Here is the list of players they have met with:
Josh Uche, Michigan
Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Julian Okwara, Notre Dame (planned formal meeting)
Ladarius Hamilton, North Texas
Khalid Khareem, Notre Dame
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Kendall Coleman, Syracuse
Jonathan Greenard, Florida
Jason Strowbridge, UNC
Chase Young, Ohio State
Bradlee Anae, Utah
Curtis Weaver, Boise State
Zack Baun, Wisconsin
K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU (formal)
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (planned)
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Michael Danna, Michigan (Shrine Bowl meeting)
Austin Edwards, Ferris State (Shrine Bowl meeting)
Based on what we have heard thus far, the Falcons love K’Lavon Chaisson at 16th overall if he is available. One would imagine they will pursue he or A.J. Epenesa at that spot, or perhaps trade back a bit to select Yetur Gross-Matos or Zack Baun, accumulating more picks in the process. Their best course of action is likely to take one of these three and later try to pick up one of Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Bradlee Anae, Jonathan Greenard, or Curtis Weaver. Even then, they should pursue a rotational pass rusher in free agency as well. There is a lot of work to be done, but Atlanta is actively trying to find the solution.