The Falcons could field a much different-looking defense in 2022 than they did in 2021; in fact, Atlanta’s defense leads the entire league in snaps coming from impending free agents. They might have to replace Foye Oluokun’s 98% of all defensive snaps, Duron Harmon‘s 91%, Fabian Moreau‘s 88%, Erik Harris‘ 64%, Steven Means‘ 58%, and Dante Fowler‘s 44%. Six defensive starters and a plethora of other rotational players could also have to be replaced.
It is no secret that the most important of the bunch is Oluokun. Obviously, the Falcons front office’s attention is set on bringing him back after he finished the 2021 season leading the league in tackles. Anything under $10 million per year would be a no-brainer for me, but the Falcons brass could see it much differently.
There’s no question as to how vital the MIKE linebacker is in Dean Pees’ defense; Foye was tasked with getting everyone lined up and making calls, all while handling his positional responsibilities. He’s incredibly valuable to this team. Replacing the leader and signal-caller of a defense is a difficult thing to do, but it seems like the Falcons will attempt to avoid that.
Two months ago, Oluokun told members of the media the two sides would approach the negotiating table following the end of the regular season. With no update on contract talks, we can only assume the Falcons are playing this one close to the vest, as they do with most things. However, I’d be disappointed if Atlanta handed him the lucrative contract he’ll garner on the open market.
In his MMQB from Monday, Albert Breer named Foye as one free agent who may wind up getting more money than the public thinks.
I hope the Falcons don’t do something irresponsible and hand Foye a crazy deal, but it seems things are trending in that direction. The positional value of an off-ball linebacker is ridiculously low compared to EDGE defenders and cornerbacks, so I wouldn’t support shelling out considerable cash to keep Oluokun in Atlanta. In fact, I don’t even think his play was that impressive in 2021. Anything more than $10 million APY should be enough to force the Falcons to let him walk.