The Falcons have several impending free agents they’ll consider bringing back on new deals in 2022. Cordarrelle Patterson will dominate headlines after his breakout season in Arthur Smith’s offense; he’s also poured fuel on the fire through social media by not so subtly stating his desire to stay in Atlanta. There is also a bevy of wide receivers that will garner attention because the Falcons only have two wideouts under contract in 2022 — Calvin Ridley and Frank Darby.
However, the most notable impending free agent other than Patterson is Foye Oluokun — the NFL’s leader in tackles. He finished the season with 192 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks, one forced fumble, and seven quarterback hits.
Terry Fontenot will have to decide whether bringing Oluokun back on a new deal is worth it. Given how much money Atlanta has tied up in Deion Jones and the positional value of linebackers, Fontenot could be forced to let Oluokun walk.
On the other hand, replacing him and having said player learn Dean Pees system and what his defensive coordinator wants out of his MIKE linebacker might not be worth the trouble. Debo carries a cap hit of $20 million in 2022, plus a dead cap of $24.8 million — per Spotrac — so I would be shocked if the Falcons parted ways with him.
Either the Falcons open up the checkbook and have a sense of continuity, or they move on and start over with a new MIKE linebacker. For some teams around the league, they hope it is the latter.
Oluokun is a valuable free agent for some defenses in need of a veteran leader. Heavy.com’s Michael Obermuller believes the Jets could be an ideal landing spot for Oluokun.
Q: Pick a player with ties to a member of the Jets coaching staff that they should pursue and reunite with this season?
“This is a great question and two names immediately come to mind. My first choice would be a linebacker who played under defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta.
Foyesade Oluokun has developed into an underrated machine at the heart of the Falcons defense with 192 total tackles in 2021. Based on reports, it seems more and more likely that the Jets don’t address linebacker high in the draft but I still feel this area is severely lacking. The Dirty Bird is a free agent who can do everything from rushing the quarterback to intercepting the football (five over the past two seasons).”
The Jets are projected to have nearly $50 million in cap space this offseason, so it is much more feasible for them to hand Oluokun a lucrative deal. However, New York still has CJ Mosely under contract in 2022. If they were to cut him, the dead cap would be considerable — around $18 million. I doubt they’d be able to work out a trade, but that route would cut down a significant amount of the dead cap.
Either way, Oluokun will undoubtedly have a robust market. Terry Fontenot would be remiss if he didn’t, at the very least, get to the negotiating table with Oluokun’s representatives to explore a potential deal.