The Falcons don’t have many players to build around, but AJ Terrell is a centerpiece of this team and will be for a long time. The new regime in Atlanta has to be incredibly grateful for Thomas Dimitroff’s final parting gift.
Terrell enjoyed quite the breakout campaign in 2021 and was predictably rewarded with All-Pro honors, even if he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. He went from an average cover man to being named second-team All-Pro in just one offseason.
The trail of receivers Terrell has left in his wake is quite impressive — holding Deebo Samuel, Jaylen Waddle, and Corey Davis to 0 yards in their respective matchups. Moreover, he only surrendered 19 yards to Michael Gallup and 24 yards to Stefon Diggs, who is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in the game.
Terrell allowed the fourth-fewest yards in coverage this past season among all defensive backs with at least 1,000 snaps, and he was first among cornerbacks. He posted league-best marks in several metrics, including completion percentage allowed (41.1%) and yards allowed per target (4.1).
The Clemson product has been recognized by a bevy of outlets, making top 25 under 25 lists and peer-voted on ESPN rankings. The tangible results are evident; the next step is the intangibles — i.e., leadership.
By the time Terrell is up for an extension, the corner market will have exploded and driven the price up for the Falcons. However, I’m here to tell you that Atlanta has a gem in Terrell. He will be worth every penny over the $20+ million AAV he commands. He’s not only an All-Pro on the field, but Terrell also has those qualities that make an organization comfortable investing $100+ million. During a media session after the team’s first voluntary workout earlier this offseason, Terrell told reporters one of his goals this year is to “be that ultimate leader on the defense.”
The club desperately needs leaders. Terrell is seemingly taking that responsibility seriously, which is more than encouraging and exactly what the Falcons want in their stars.
It’s fair to say Terrell’s second year in the league was one of the more impressive seasons by a cornerback in NFL history, which will always be challenging to repeat. I don’t think he will regress to something horrid by any means, but to put up those kinds of numbers again would put him into another category of cover men.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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