The Julio Jones holdout took away some of the attention from players like Jake Matthews, Ricardo Allen and Grady Jarrett, who are heading into the final year of their respective contracts.
Now that Jones is happy, Dimitroff can fully focus on the free agency class of 2019, and on Friday, the first one of them got paid. Ian Rappaport announced Atlanta is finalizing a deal to keep Mathews in town for five more years.
Mathews has been a model of consistency and durability at one of the most important positions in football. It was vital Dimitroff and the Falcons reach an agreement with Matthews prior to him hitting the open market.
Now, the spotlight must turn towards Grady Jarrett.
The Falcons interior defensive line play was suspect at best a season ago, and that was with guys like Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn still on the roster. Now both of them are donning different jerseys and a bevy of questions surround the defensive line. However, if there is one guy Atlanta can lean their head on it is Jarrett. The former fifth-round pick out of Clemson has become one of the most impactful players at the position, recording 55 tackles and 4 sacks while clogging up the middle in 2017. A performance that may have not gotten him to the Pro-Bowl last season, but it is just a matter of time before he gets that recognition.
This is a deal that needs to happen prior to the start of the season. The Falcons have already told Julio Jones that they would work on restructuring his deal next offseason, and they certainly do not want to have to address that while one of their star defensive players is hitting the open market. It is also a strong possibility Jarrett will continue to improve and have his best season in 2018. He will not be getting any cheaper, and Atlanta desperately needs him to be a leader across the defensive front for years to come.
The Falcons are going to do everything they can to retain Jarrett in the long-term and will likely do the same for Ricardo Allen, a free safety who is also set to become a free agent along with Jarrett. The difference is the secondary for Atlanta is miles ahead of the defensive line. Second-year player, Damontae Kazee, proved to be an impactful player as a rookie last season. He could be in line to take over Allen’s starting role as he continues to get his feet wet in the NFL. Atlanta can also scan the first few rounds of the draft for similar talent at the free safety spot if they need to, but it will be much tougher to find another Grady Jarrett.
The Falcons number one focus has to be extending Jarrett, and it is should happen sooner rather than later.