How will the Falcons approach Jeff Okudah’s fifth-year option?

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The Falcons will have a couple of big decisions to make in the coming weeks. Last offseason, the front office had to deliberate on the fifth-year options of two offensive linemen — Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary — and will now have the same conversation regarding two former first-round cornerbacks — A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah.

Terrell’s is straightforward, similar to Lindstrom’s. It’s not a question of if the club will exercise his fifth-year option but when they do it. Okudah’s situation isn’t as simple. After acquiring the former third overall pick via trade on Tuesday, the Falcons will have until May 2 to decide whether or not to pick up Okudah’s option.

The Athletic classified the decision as a ‘questionable call’ in their evaluation of the 2020 draft class:

“Traded from Detroit to Atlanta on Tuesday, Okudah gets a fresh start. But what should Atlanta do about his option? He has yet to live up to his billing as the top corner taken in 2020, but he fared better down the stretch of the 2022 season, leading some to believe he’s worthy of a fifth year after showing his ability to weather adversity. But he’s far too inconsistent for other rival talent evaluators’ liking. Some rival decision-makers believe the Falcons should let Okudah play out this final year and prove he can stay healthy and contribute consistently. Others say Atlanta should pick up the option to give it additional time to evaluate him.”

Well, for the Falcons, it’s not questionable at all. The club shouldn’t exercise the $11.514 million option. There are a few reasons for this sweeping take of mine.

Committing that kind of money to a player that has struggled to stay on the field is an unnecessary gamble with minimal upside. The deal itself to acquire Okudah for a fifth-round pick is filled with upside, but picking up his option isn’t. There is a very narrow window for it to work out for the Falcons. Let’s say everything goes right: Okudah stays healthy, and the change of scenery/coaching staff dramatically improves his play. Even then, paying him $11.5 million isn’t some bargain.

If the Falcons don’t pick it up, and he still balls out, the club could probably lock him into a long-term deal at a similar rate. The going rate for a CB2 in today’s NFL can range from $5 to $12 million. It makes no sense to put that kind of faith in Jeff Okudah. I hope it works out, and maybe Atlanta did acquire its future cover man to pair with A.J. Terrell, but it’s an unnecessary gamble to guarantee the Ohio State product $11.5 million with his current track record.

Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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