The number of notable defensive tackles available in free agency is mind-boggling. The list is so long, I decided to break it up into two groups: Headline names that are set to get PAID and more affordable options. This is the more fun list of players who will be breaking the bank this offseason. It includes one of the Falcons’ own and three other players who have to be on the radar of Thomas Dimitroff and Company. The Falcons had one of the worst defensive lines in the league, so not only do they need at least one of these players, they could use multiple.
The best free agent tackle available happens to be Atlanta’s own. Jarrett is going to be in for a monstrous pay bump this offseason after recording a career-high six sacks and sixteen quarterback hits in fourteen games. It should surprise nobody if he signs a deal worth nearly $20 million annually. That’s not something the Falcons have been known to do on their defensive line, and to some teams, he may not be worth it. But to Atlanta, who was porous at getting after the passer and equally as bad at stopping the run. They cannot afford to lose, not only their best pass rusher but their best run stopper as well. Thomas Dimitroff calls figuring out a deal with Jarrett the Falcons top priority. Hopefully, they find common ground and reach a long-term extension.
No, Pierce isn’t going to be a defensive lineman that racks up a lot of sacks. In his three NFL seasons, he only has three of them. But at 6 feet, 340 pounds, Pierce is a load to handle on running downs. He’s able to take on multiple blockers and still make plays, but at the very least, he clogs up lanes so his teammates can get in on the action. Watching him when the Ravens went up against the Falcons this past year, he was the most disruptive player on the field. Atlanta could desperately use him on their defensive front. However, he will not come cheap and is a restricted free agent the Ravens will want to keep.
Richardson is 28 and coming off his most productive year as a pro since 2014. He’s a mountain to deal with in the middle against the run and was much more effective rushing the passer in 2018. On the open market, he may not get as much as Jarrett, but it could come close. It’s hard imagining the Falcons locking up both Jarrett and Richardson, but what a duo that would be in the middle of their defensive line.
Suh’s lengthy and lucrative contracts have been an issue for every team he has played for. That is, until this year when he signed a one-year deal with the Rams. Suh formed a nice one-two punch with Aaron Donald, but it’s likely his best days are behind him. He has been a hired gun throughout his career, so I expect him to move on to his next destination, which is probably wherever the money leads him. Given his past issues, age, and the money he will require; the Falcons can find a better bang for their buck elsewhere.
By ignoring the defensive line last offseason in the draft and free agency, Atlanta left themselves very few options; they have to sign Grady Jarrett to a long-term extension. You might think that would take them out of the running for one of these other top-of-the-line free agents, but there is an off-chance they could be in the market for a couple of these players. Strengthening the interior of this defensive line is a top priority, and signing two of these guys would immediately give the Falcons’ defense a whole different outlook heading into 2019.