Vic Beasley has failed to keep up pace from his All Pro 2016 season. He seems unaffected by the quarterback, blocking, or any other matchup, frequently failing to get to the quarterback even when in a great situation.
Beasley’s disappearance since 2016
Earlier this season it was almost a guarantee the Falcons would rescind his fifth-year option. Beasley’s option, taken by the team during the offseason, would net the defensive end $12.8 million. That’s a lot of money for a player averaging around 4 to 5 sacks per season and frequently found at the bottom of Pro Football Focus rankings.
The Falcons can’t spread out that cap hit, forcing them to pay serious dollars all at once. Looking at 2018’s free agent class, this annual amount slots right below Andrew Norwell’s deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Falcons could add defensive line help on players similar to Star Lotulelei (five-year, $50 million) and Dontari Poe (three-year, $28 million). It’s not clear Beasley is comparable to either player.
Beasley’s recent return
Things have changed recently. While earlier this year Beasley was playing 60+ snaps per game, he’s been relegated to a smaller role hovering in the low 40s. The truth is it has paid off. He’s had four sacks in his last five games, along with two passes defended and this play.
The next two games will help a lot in evaluating Beasley. If he can keep pace and show he’s a 10+ sack player on limited snaps, he could be worth the fifth-year option.
The fifth-year option guarantees
First-round picks in the NFL draft sign four-year deals, but the team has an option to keep them for a fifth year. The Falcons exercised the option back in April with an injury-guaranteed $12.8 million. This means if he hurts himself playing and isn’t healthy by next league year he still gets the full amount. The salary is equal to the average of the 10 highest salaries of defensive ends.
The Falcons hit Jake Matthews with a fifth-year option last year before signing him to a five-year, $75 million deal.
The next big deadline: The new league year
While the $12.8 million will guarantee in case of an injury, it will guarantee starting in the new league year. That means the Falcons will have to make a final decision on Beasley by March 13.
The Falcons will get about two-and-one-half months after the season to look at draft and free agent options, and will even have two days to contact free agents during legal tampering. They will have a full understanding of their options and can make a decision accordingly.
The CBA doesn’t list any deadline for contract extensions while under the option. The team could keep the option then work out a contract extension.
What will Thomas Dimitroff do?
We know the team’s braintrust hates to give up on a player, especially one drafted in the early rounds. The Falcons brought back Peria Jerry despite his poor play and adding three other defensive tackles. Sam Baker was astoundingly given a six-year, $41.1 million deal after his first and only health season. He was paid $18.25 million for 189 offensive snaps. Obviously paying anyone $96,561 per snap was not a good move in retrospect, but Baker was never going to stay healthy. The team still has Sean Weatherspoon on speed dial but he’s sadly lacking pro speed.
It’s not clear if Dimitroff has changed his outlook since those mishaps but the sudden uptick in Beasley’s performance may push him towards keeping the former top-10 selection for another year.