The Falcons have been handing out money as of late. First, it was Matt Ryan’s record breaking $150 million deal. Then it was the re-structuring of Julio Jones’s deal this season to avoid any type of holdout, followed by a healthy investment in their left tackle Jake Mathews worth $75 million over the next five seasons.
And as expected, they are not done yet.
According to Ian Rappaport of NFL.com, Atlanta is now shifting their focus to signing free safety Ricardo Allen to a long-term deal. Allen’s agent, the infamous Drew Rosenhaus, was reportedly in Atlanta yesterday to discuss keeping his client in town for the foreseeable future.
The Falcons are also intent on locking up defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a long-term contract. Like Allen, Jarrett is also poised to be an unrestricted agent next offseason. The difference being, the Falcons cannot let a player like Jarrett walk, especially with their lack of depth across the defensive line.
On the other hand, Allen could be viewed as somewhat dispensable. It was not long ago Allen was cut from the team when Mike Smith was the head coach after being a fifth-round selection in 2014. Under Dan Quinn, Allen was able to find a spot for himself, going from practice squad member to starting free safety. He has never looked back, starting in all but three regular season games over the last three seasons.
Allen has become the safety net at the end of what has become an electric Atlanta defense under Quinn. However, with so much young talent in the wings ready to get paid, some guys are going to have to become cap casualties. Not only does Atlanta have to negotiate with Grady Jarrett this year, they have also agreed to re-work Julio Jones’s contract next offseason, and Pro-Bowl players like Vic Beasley Jr., Deion Jones and Keanu Neal will be wanting a bigger slice of the pie in the near future as well. The Falcons cannot keep everyone, so it is vital they receive value out of every deal they make going forward.
Back-up running back, Tevin Coleman, looks like he will most likely become the first of the cap casualties. If Allen is not looking for a deal that is mutually beneficial, he could be next. Atlanta’s secondary is loaded with talent, featuring Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Keanu Neal, and the newly acquired Brandon Oliver, the Falcons second-round draft pick. Damontae Kazee, a rookie last season, also showed great promise and his versatility allows him to play the corner position or free safety. He is a viable backup option if the Falcons were to lose Allen in free agency.
With that being said, continuity on the defense is something that cannot be judged by a players PFF score or his stat line. Allen has become a glue-guy in the back of the defense and one of the main reasons the Falcons have become known for not giving up the big play. At 27 entering the prime of his career, the Falcons would love to see Rico back next season, but the price is going to have to be right.
Here is a list of the top paid free safeties today
LaMarcus Joyner: $11.29 M annually
Harrison Smith: $10.25 M annually
Earl Thomas: $10 M annually
Devin McCourty: $9.5 M annually
Malcolm Jenkins: $8.75 M annually
Tashaun Gipson: $7.2 M annually
Glover Quin, Eric Weddle, Jaquiski Tartt: $6.5 M annually
*All contract information courtesy of Spotrac
Allen is currently set to earn just under $3 million after signing his tender as a restricted free agent. A pay raise is coming that should about double his annual income. A four-year deal, worth about $24 million seems plenty fair considering the market for free safeties. Rico is at the heart of the Brotherhood, and while a deal may not be imminent, the two sides seem to be inching closer and closer to putting ink on paper.