Four Falcons playing for their jobs


The reason tanking has never really been a thing in the NFL is because of the cutthroat nature of the business. Guys who take plays off- no matter the situation- usually don’t even make it to the league, let alone sustain a career. The Falcons may be out of the playoffs for all intents and purposes, but don’t expect another performance like we saw a week ago. There are several players competing for their spot on the roster in 2019, and if that’s not in the cards, auditioning for a role on another team. Here are the four most noticeable:

Robert Alford

The Falcons couldn’t have cut Alford prior to the 2018 year even if they wanted to. Doing so would have resulted in a larger cap hit than the $9.6 million that the Falcons owed him for the season. It also wasn’t something the Falcons were going to do anyway, considering the type of player he was in 2017.

Unfortunately, for both sides, 2018 has been cruel. Alford is having the worst year of his career and the Falcons are sitting at 4-8. There may be a chance over these last four weeks for Alford to prove he is worth the $9.1 million he is owed next year, but it’s a slim one at that. Atlanta can cut ties with Alford following the season, suffering only a $1.2 million cap hit. However, this is still an opportunity for Alford to show the rest of the league what he’s worth.

Ryan Schraeder

Schraeder is in a similar position. The Falcons signed the once undrafted free agent to a five-year deal in 2016. He was solid in 2017- but like Alford- 2018 hasn’t done him any favors. It’s gotten so bad that the Falcons are reportedly giving Ty Sambrailo first-team reps in practice. Even if that doesn’t mean Sambrailo will be the starter this week, it does confirm the Falcons are looking for other answers.

Now, Schraeder’s situation is a little different than Alford’s in this way: They don’t have many replacement options on the current roster (hence the Ty Sambrailo reference) and his cap hit is a much larger $3.8 million if they cut him. The Falcons could opt to draft another tackle option, but they have much greater needs than replacing Schraeder right now. They could also sign a free agent, but anything better than Schraeder would likely prove costly. It’s important- for both the Falcons and Schraeder- that he looks a little more like his 2016-2017 self down the final stretch.

Duke Riley

At this point, I’m not even sure if Riley’s job is saveable in Atlanta, and it’s not even because of his salary. Riley- Atlanta’s third-round pick back in 2017- has shown us nothing to believe he is capable of being a linebacker in the NFL over his two years with the team. He’s already been bumped down on the depth chart behind rookie sixth-round pick Foysade Oluokon and will see the field even less with the return of Deion Jones.

However, if there’s one thing that Atlanta desperately needs, it is reliable tacklers. Riley won’t cost much, so there’s no harm for Atlanta by keeping him. It’s up to him to show us something worth keeping in these last four games.

Vic Beasley Jr.

I’d say of all the players who are unlikely to return next season, Vic Beasley Jr. is at the top of the list. Outside of his All-Pro season- when he led the league in sacks- Beasley has been a bust since being selected #8 overall by the Falcons in 2015. Remember this picture of Vic Beasley’s positional ranking of 106 out of 106 according to Pro Football Focus:

That was taken during the Thanksgiving game against the New Orleans Saints. You would think it couldn’t possibly get any worse- but somehow- Beasley is currently the 107th ranked edge defender according to Pro Football Focus.

The Falcons exercised their fifth-year option on Beasley last summer, which schedules to pay him close to $13 million next season. However, that money doesn’t become fully guaranteed until the start of next season barring an injury. Atlanta can cut him once the season ends and not suffer any type of cap hit. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what is going to happen here.

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