Taylor Gabriel has, since the very beginning of the offseason, seemed very upbeat about his chances of returning to the Atlanta Falcons. Even though 2017 was a shakier year than his breakout 2016 season, it seems very logical to think the Falcons might want someone with Turbo’s speed and locker room presence around.
In practice, though, there’s some real doubt about this one. Gabriel’s up-and-down 2017 raises some questions about what his role in this passing attack would look like going forward. In recent comments to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Gabriel acknowledged some of that uncertainty.
“I love the Falcons but, like I always say, it’s a business, man,” Gabriel told ESPN. “You never know what’s going on upstairs and things like that. But I love the Falcons. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that they gave me.
”Going to a Super Bowl with those guys in that locker room, the brotherhood and being a part of that, that’s a blessing, man. That’s why I said I want to be a Falcon forever. That’s something special. That’s something that you don’t get going from team to team. And that’s a brotherhood that I’ll forever, forever remember if I’m with them or if I’m not with them.”
I genuinely hope that Gabriel returns and returns to his 2016 effectiveness, as that would be an excellent outcome for player and team alike. In practice, though, the only sure bets for the roster in 2018 are Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and the still-cheap Justin Hardy. Gabriel’s not going to make huge money, but he’s due for a bit of a raise and some long-term security, and I suspect the Falcons are going to think long and hard before they give that to him. Gabriel’s speed and skill set suggest he can be a useful player in any offense, so long as that offense is willing to feature him intelligently, but he’s likely to get more money from another team.
Ultimately, I do think Gabriel will wind up elsewhere. Whether you blame Gabriel for a bit of a disappointing season, Steve Sarkisian for his usage, or the vagaries of luck and missed opportunities, last year dented his chances of staying in Atlanta. We should know soon enough where Gabriel will sign, so there’s still time for this take to be very wrong, and Gabriel continues to say all the right things. It’s in the team’s hands now, and especially Steve Sarkisian’s.