Should Falcons pursue disgruntled 49ers star Deebo Samuel?

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The 2022 NFL offseason has been one of the most volatile in recent memory. A bevy of quarterbacks — Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garappolo, etc. — will be playing in a new uniform this season, but there are also other stars — Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Khalil Mack, etc. — that will be strapping it up with a new organization in 2022.

The draft is just over a week away, and a couple of elite players could also become available for trade. Seattle’s DK Metcalf, Tennesse’s AJ Brown, and Washington’s Terry McLaurin are emerging pass catchers in line for lucrative contract extensions that have been rumored to be on the trade block. And today, another young playmaker has made it clear he wants out — Deebo Samuel, who “wants to move on,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

John Lynch and the 49ers’ front office are ready to get a deal done, but Samuel “has put a halt to everything for right now.” He’s officially requested a trade out of San Fran, according to Jeff Darlington.

Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Like Metcalf and McLaurin, he is coming off a campaign where he totaled 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He’s unlike any player in the NFL right now — a star receiver that is equally impressive as a running back. Samuel is undoubtedly in line for a massive payday.

Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill have reset the market, earning around $30 million AAV. You can absolutely expect Samuel’s reps to use those at the negotiating table, no matter who he plays for. So, should the Falcons pursue the disgruntled star?

Trading for Samuel will require parting ways with several valuable draft picks as well as a lucrative, long-term deal. I don’t necessarily believe the Falcons are in a position to trade away any picks for any position that isn’t a premium position — quarterback, EDGE, etc. The Falcons aren’t one Deebo Samuel away from competing, even if it will kickstart the rebuild, and it’s not wise to build a roster from the outside in. Building out is much more sustainable.

Paying Samuel is also another hurdle the Falcons would have to climb, but it’s not as big of a deal as the compensation. Handing a receiver/running back $30 million AAV will never be my cup of tea, but the Falcons will be able to afford it going forward.

The team’s total cap liabilities are estimated to be just under $89 million next offseason, which puts them in a position to be big spenders come the spring of 2023. With the league’s salary cap estimated to rise to $220-225 million in 2023, the Falcons should have between $131-136 million in cap space. That’s plenty of room to fit Samuel’s new contract under.

The logistics would work out, but the team’s timeline doesn’t warrant trading for a player like Samuel. Atlanta doesn’t have a long-term solution at quarterback, and Marcus Mariota is in no position to lead this subpar roster to the playoffs. You can always find weapons before a signal caller, but I’d argue that money would be better spent on pass rushers and offensive linemen in free agency next spring.

Still, the prospect of a player like Samuel with Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts in Arthur Smith’s offense is extremely enticing. The first-time head coach has already proven with Patterson that he can accentuate Samuel’s skillset.

Photographer: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire
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