The Falcons have several players they can move this offseason to create cap space and acquire draft capital. Calvin Ridley will dominate these trade scenarios because of his absence from the team; Matt Ryan will get a few mentions because of his value to other teams as a veteran quarterback; Deion Jones might get some burn in trade articles because of Falcons fans’ disdain for his play in 2021. And Grady Jarrett is someone the Falcons might not re-sign after his contract expires next offseason, so he’ll also garner some attention.
The new league year begins March 6, marking when trades can be made official. About a month away, teams are likely scouring prospects to work out the details as March 6 approaches.
Outside of Ridley, Jarrett’s contract is the easiest to move for the Falcons. Trading him on March 6 will only cost the Falcons $7.3 million in dead money while saving Atlanta over $16 million. Since he is in the last year of his current deal, Terry Fontenot will have to decide if Jarrett fits their future plans financially. He’ll be 29-years-old by the start of the 2022 season, and plenty of teams still see him as a top-10 player at his position. If the Falcons aren’t going to give him an extension, they’d be wise to explore moving him this offseason.
Obviously, the Falcons haven’t provided any signs they’re willing to trade him. He’s one of the defense’s only elite players, so it is hard for me to believe the Falcons let Jarrett out of the building. However, the possibility raises the question of ‘what kind of trade value does Grady Jarrett have?’
Jarrett is one of the best players at his position, but his intangibles make him even more desirable. He is a lunch pail kind of player that will work just as hard at practice, workouts, and in the film room as he will on game day. Any team acquiring Jarrett will drastically improve their interior defensive line. Let’s take a look at some similar trades that have gone down involving talented defensive lineman.
Days before the 2009 season, the Patriots traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders for a 2011 first-round pick. Seymour was 29-years-old and entering the last year of his contract. New England’s defense saw a lot of personnel turnover that offseason, a transitional period that saw the Patriots part ways with Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison. The Patriots ended up taking Nate Solder with the 17th overall pick, and the Raiders franchise-tagged Seymour after the 2009 season.
Most recently, the Rams traded Michael Brockers to the Lions for a 2023 seventh-round pick. Brockers was a cap casualty for Los Angeles, while Detroit acquired a veteran defender that immediately improved their young team for little to nothing in return. Brockers only cost the Lions $8 million in 2021, and they could’ve parted ways with him this offseason and saved $10 million (owing no dead money) as he entered the final year of his contract. However, Detriot gave Brockers a three-year, $24 million contract extension last offseason.
In a similar move, the Titans sent Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Broncos for a seventh-round pick in an apparent salary dump move a couple of offseasons ago. The then 30-year-old was due about $11.7 million in 2020, and Tennessee got out from paying $5.45 million in guaranteed money, clearing the $11.7 million off their cap. Casey was released by Denver less than a year after the trade.
Some might point to the 49ers’ trade that sent DeForest Buckner to the Colts as a reference point to a potential Grady Jarrett deal, but he was coming off his rookie deal and was a much younger player than Jarrett is right now. The Brockers and Casey trades were obvious salary dumps, which somewhat applies to Jarrett. The Falcons didn’t part ways with Jarrett last offseason when they were battling salary cap constraints, so I wouldn’t expect Terry Fontenot to go that route this offseason.
More than likely, the Falcons would move Jarrett for the same reason Bill Belichick moved Seymour. He needed a new contract, and the Patriots weren’t going to give it to him. The decision for Terry Fontenot would hinge on the draft compensation Jarrett garners. If the Falcons can’t get a first-round pick in exchange for Jarrett, there really isn’t a point in making a deal, in my opinion.
Jarrett is an instrumental piece in the locker room for a first-time head coach. Trading him would undoubtedly create a rift amongst the team, so if the compensation isn’t a first-round pick or two second-round picks, the Falcons shouldn’t even entertain the offer.