You could, theoretically, see a Falcons defensive line shape next year without Vic Beasley, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby and Terrell McClain. There’s a lot of work to be done to improve that unit, with only Grady Jarrett, Takkarist McKinley and Deadrin Senat looking like they’re truly safe.
Oh, and Jack Crawford. The Falcons should probably make sure they hold on to Jack Crawford.
Crawford’s been absurdly good for long stretches this season, and has genuinely been one of (if not the only) defensive lineman who has been better than we expected him to be. He’s tied with Takk for the team sack lead with 5.5, which also represents a career high for the 30-year-old former Raider and Cowboy. His motor and his ability to fight through solid offensive lines to get pressure have been a bright spot, and with the Falcons needing to address both lines in earnest this offseason, there’s no doubt Crawford will head into 2019 as a major piece.
Regardless of what the Falcons do at defensive tackle—and I’d love to see Ed Oliver in Atlanta, if that could possibly happen—they should find a way to keep Crawford around. Their depth at the position has been paper-thin for a long time now, and Crawford’s deal is absurdly cheap next year before it expires heading into 2020. It may be worth the Falcons beefing that up a bit, even if it’s only for an extra year, to try to give them a very good rotation for the next couple of seasons. For a Falcons team that could use a full-scale rebuild at defensive end, having three quality players in the middle could make a huge difference.
So a salute to Crawford, who has been every bit as good as Dan Quinn said he would be and then some, and a sincere hope that he spends a long time in Atlanta.