Falcons: Ranking players who need extensions

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It’s no secret the Falcons are a little tight on money, and the COVID-19 situation won’t help the hard salary cap number. I had no desire to extend Takk McKinley, even before his antics that eventually got him cut.

Thankfully, as far as 2021 goes, there isn’t much work to do. Atlanta will have a handful of guys who need to be brought back, but 2022 will be critical. Who knows who the new coach/GM will be, but these are guys I want to be on this roster. I’ll be omitting Alex Mack — I love him, and he’s one of the best free-agent signings in team history, but he’s likely to retire, and the team probably won’t have the money to keep him if he doesn’t. Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst will also be left off; they both have 5th-year options that are no-brainers to exercise. Even though the trade deadline has passed, I have an article listing trade and cut candidatesI don’t foresee Todd Gurley or Keanu Neal being back either. All figures are via Over The Cap.

 

Honorable Mention:

2021: K Younghoe Koo, TE Jaeden Graham, WR Christian Blake, T Matt Gono, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson

These are all 2021 guys, and while they’re replaceable — I like what they bring to the table. Koo has been pretty good, and he’s a kicker. He won’t break the bank. I’m still very frustrated with Dirk Koetter’s mishandling of Jaeden Graham in favor of Luke Stocker, and tight end will be thin. Christian Blake had a nice game last week against Denver, and I think he’s worth a contract. Matt Gono is a low-cost swing tackle who played well in limited action. Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped up big time in the wake of injuries and has 2 INTs on the season. He’s never been too expensive, and he’s definitely worth rostering.

 

Possible Cap Casualties in 2021:

DE Allen Bailey, S Ricardo Allen, DE Dante Fowler Jr

These guys are due for new contracts in the 2022 offseason, but with their cap figures — I wouldn’t be surprised if they were traded. In my first mock draft, I have Atlanta loading up on EDGE and drafting a Keanu Neal replacement at safety. Depending on how Atlanta feels about Jaylinn Hawkins, Allen can be cut for just over $2 million in dead money. He has had a pretty tough 2020, so it’s a possibility. Allen Bailey isn’t awful, but he can be cut for savings of around $3 million. If there are rookies in the fold, it makes sense.

Now let me address the elephant in the room. Fowler has… not been good so far.

 

 

Maybe the new coaching staff will get the best out of him, and I’ve already advocated moving to a 3-4 to help him out. The Falcons basically have to ride with him next season, but if he doesn’t show monumental signs of improvement, there’s no way he makes it to year three of his deal. 

 

The Rankings:

 

#6 RB Brian Hill

I’ve made a case for Brian Hill to be more involved in this offense before, but at the end of the day — he’s a running back. Backs have been hard to gauge considering Dirk Koetter is allergic to running the ball, but I think Hill is worth rostering for a cheap deal. He’s currently on a $2.13 million contract with no guarantees; I’d be fine giving him that again while drafting another running back to compliment him and groom. If the team really has to pinch pennies, I understand letting him go

 

#5 WR Olamide Zaccheaus

Recency bias may have some fans thinking Zaccheaus should be higher, and I quite like him as a player. However, he’s still Atlanta’s 4th receiver when everyone is healthy. However, he’s been fantastic as a deep threat. If a coach like Eric Bieniemy gets his hands on him, he could be due for a massive breakout and a nice extension.

 

#4 CB Isaiah Oliver

Unlike Calvin Ridley & Hayden Hurst, Isaiah Oliver was not a 1st round pick and does not have a 5th-year option. Oliver has been a punching bag for fans this year, but he’s been better post-Dan Quinn.

He’s showing signs of improvement. Next season may be a different story, but for now, he’s worth rostering unless his price tag is ridiculous.

 

#3 CB Darqueze Dennard

If you refer to the tweet above, Darqueze Dennard has been fantastic when healthy in 2020. We all praised the signing at the time, especially for less than $1 million in salary. Dennard is worthy of a couple more years in Atlanta — and a raise.

 

#2 WR Russell Gage

Gage is another player without a 5th-year option, and while he hasn’t matched his 114 yards from Week 1, he’s been quite good for Atlanta as a WR3. For a moderate deal, I think he’s well worth having on this roster. Atlanta may be forced to choose between him and Zaccheaus, but I’d love to have both.

 

#1 LB Foyesade Oluokun

Let me emphasize this — no matter what Atlanta’s cap situation looks like, there HAS to be money for Foye. I wrote back in January that he was due for a breakout, and he’s been amazing this season. According to PFF, the former Yale safety & 6th round pick has had tremendous value on special teams and is a top 20 linebacker. Deion Jones, Foye, and Mykal Walker is a strong nucleus of linebackers, and Foye needs to be locked up with Atlanta for a long time.

 

 

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