As of 4:00 pm Eastern Time this Wednesday, the decision to keep Vic Beasley a Falcon for 2019 was made final. Despite being an unproductive force for the Falcons the last two seasons, Quinn and Dimitroff have been resolute in keeping Beasley around for at least one more year. Considering the $12.8M cap hit Beasley represents, Beasley is no longer a draft bust, he is an anchor.
I held onto these thoughts for two reasons; the unimaginable possibility of the front office changing their minds and the contracts many of these free agents were going to receive; Both of which would play a part in seeing if my initial anger was misplaced.
Even though he looks like a Greek God and tests off the charts in every physical category, Beasley has failed to recapture the praise that ensued after his jaw-dropping combine performance. Outside of an All-Pro, NFL-leading, 15.5 sack 2016 campaign, the Clemson product has not had a season with over five sacks, and his inability to develop a secondary pass move besides bursting up the field has become more than a potential flaw: it’s an Achilles’ Heel.
Beasley remains a project, and one that many Falcons’ fans believe has run its course. Although his $12.8M is a sizable hit to the cap, with the physical upside that Beasley has, in combination with the monstrous contracts being handed out to defenders, letting go of him is easier said than done, especially when thinking about the blueprint of the Falcons’ offseason.
The main priorities for Atlanta were locking up their players and patching up their miserable pass protecting offensive line. The Falcons have done their best to address the porous offensive line, parting ways with players like Ben Garland, Ryan Schraeder, and Andy Levitre while signing James Carpenter and Jamon Brown to multi-year contracts, solidifying the interior. These signings notwithstanding, offensive tackle will still be a top draft priority for the Falcons. Jonah Williams and Cody Ford should sit atop that position group ranking.
Until then the front office’s focus will be on reaching long-term agreements with Grady Jarrett, who is under the franchise-tag and scheduled to count over $15 million against the 2019 cap, and Julio Jones.
The Falcons were never going to have gobs of money to spend on their defensive line with that outlook; they could not consciously commit to a lucrative multi-year deal knowing they have to pay Jarrett and Jones this year with Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Austin Hooper, and De’Vondre Campbell on the horizon. Did you see the massive deals the safeties and linebackers received this offseason?
Here are a few:
C.J Mosley: 5 years/$85 million
Kwon Alexander: 4 years/$54 million
Landon Collins: 6 years/$84 million
Earl Thomas 4 years/$55 million
Tyrann Mathieu: 3 years/$42 million
Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are going to want to get paid, PAID, and I can’t imagine the Falcons are anxious to move on from their Pro-Bowl tight-end, Austin Hooper. So they settled on the edge for what they knew, and what they can afford: Vic Beasley.
Dan Quinn told the media at the combine, “I’m very much looking forward to having a hands-on approach to (Beasley).”
It’s an encouraging thought, but acting as if Quinn hasn’t been “hands-on” in the past with his first draft pick as a head coach is like believing Bill Belichick doesn’t have a role in personnel decisions.
“I told him by the end of the spring he’ll either love me or hate me, and I’m good with either of them but we’re going to put it in. He knows the work that it’s going to take to play really consistent, and I’m looking forward to seeing him do it,” Quinn continued.
Quinn is betting on himself and Beasley to right the ship. Quinn needs the additional pass rusher; Beasley is playing for a new contract: Mutual inducement. The Falcons and their fans can only hope this pays off, and I admit, I have been decidedly more hopeful.
Four years in, Beasley is what he his. Beasley isn’t a guy who is ever going to have 15+ sacks again; he never was to begin with. His 2016 campaign, while by far the best of his career, was also flukey due to his high sack-rate compared to his mediocre pressure-rate. According to PFF, Beasley’s pass-rush win percentage in 2016 was only 13.9% – good for 43rd among pass rushers even though he led the league in sacks. The last two seasons have proven that stat correct, and he has only gotten worse in that category, recording an 11.7% pass-rush win percentage in 2018.
While he’s fast and strong, he’s not physical, failing him as a pass rusher and against the run – where he is non-existent. Beasley is a one-trick pony, but the Falcons do desperately need another defensive-end option aside from Takk McKinley and Steven Means. Given the team’s limited budget, choosing to hang onto their once heralded first-round selection for one more year may not be the most egregious decision talked about next offseason.
When looking at the market of defensive-end options, what noticeably better players were out there at a reasonable price? Dante Fowler, who was picked third overall in the same class as Beasley but lost his fifth-year option when he was traded to the Rams, signed a one-year deal similar to Beasley’s but for an extra $1.2 million ($14 million in total). His production is not only comparable to Beasley’s; it is substantially worse.
Most of the top pass-rushing options received the franchise tag. The ones that did hit the market (Trey Flowers, Brandon Graham, ZaDarius Smith) signed for ludicrous amounts of money in long-term deals. Money, the Falcons were not going to have if they wanted to keep the core of their team together for the long haul.
Dan Quinn isn’t going to turn Beasley into a superb pass rusher overnight. However, if Beasley can give the team 8-10 sacks next year, the deal will be well worth it. It’s not what many Falcons want to hear, even myself, but like it or not: Vic Beasley is going to be an Atlanta Falcon in 2019.