The legal tampering window is officially open in the NFL, and the Free Agency countdown clock has shifted from weeks to days to hours. Today, I’ll take a look at a player whom the Falcons have reportedly expressed interest in: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Seferian-Jenkins is a former second-round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2014 draft who flamed out in Tampa after just two seasons and some change. He found a home in New York after the Jets claimed him off waivers in 2016, and he played out the rest of his rookie contract there.
Jason La Canfora has reported that the Falcons are “very interested” in bringing Seferian-Jenkins in, and the former Washington standout has apparently reciprocated the interest via his Instagram page.
Let’s take a look at the cases for and against the Falcons signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and whether or not they should pull the trigger if given the opportunity in the coming days.
The case for signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins is built like someone who you’d want playing the tight end position for your team: NFL.com lists him at 6’5 and 262 pounds. Combine that size with aggressiveness, athleticism and fluidity in movement and he’s theoretically a matchup nightmare. His blocking is also very good, as is his route running.
I have no doubt in my mind that the Falcons have this interest in Seferian-Jenkins because of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s familiarity with him, having coached the four-year pro when he was playing college ball at the University of Washington. Seferian-Jenkins is a fit in Sarkisian’s offensive system, having dominated in it as a Huskie half a decade ago.
Age is certainly not a concern either, as Seferian-Jenkins will be just 26 years old next season: he’ll be in his prime throughout the life of his next contract.
Maybe the biggest factor working in ASJ’s favor in this scenario is the money: the Falcons won’t have to break the bank to bring him in. Spotrac lists his valuation at 3 years/$12,459,294: an annual salary of $4,153,098. That certainly falls within Atlanta’s price range.
The case against signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins
The major red flag that always sticks out with Seferian-Jenkins is the character issues. Even before entering the NFL, he was busted for a DUI in 2013, and that was a sign of things to come.
The problems got to be so much that the Buccaneers ended up outright cutting him after just two seasons following attitude problems and another DUI. The issues must have been broad and extensive for Tampa Bay to cut a player whom they had spent a high second-round draft pick on just a little while earlier. While in New York, he was also suspended for the first two games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
There are certainly too many issues off the field to ignore, especially for a player who hasn’t done much on the field. Seferian-Jenkins has totaled just 1,070 receiving yards and a combined 10 touchdowns in four NFL seasons.
In 2017, ASJ recorded just 7.1 yards per reception, totaled 357 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns and had a catch percentage of 67.6% on 74 targets. For context, Atlanta’s Austin Hooper, who was deemed to have had a disappointing 2017 season, eclipsed all of those numbers: 10.7 yards per reception, 526 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns and a 75.4% catch percentage on 65 targets. This is an instance where I’ll just let the numbers do the talking.
Verdict: Sign Seferian-Jenkins, but only to a cheap contract
Austin Seferian-Jenkins can be a good reclamation project for the Falcons to take on this offseason. His familiarity with Steve Sarkisian and the fact that he plays a position of need make this a good fit.
It shouldn’t even need to be said that the trigger on this deal should only be pulled if the contract is very affordable for Atlanta (Spotrac’s estimate of around $4 million annually looks like a good figure in regards to that). This will mitigate some of the risk and baggage that comes with signing Seferian-Jenkins.
The former Washington Huskie is a well of untapped potential that could make him very dangerous under the right coach. The most success he’s had in his football playing life has been under Sarkisian, so there isn’t a better coach I can think of to try and unlock that potential. Matt Ryan would also be the best quarterback Seferian-Jenkins has ever played with.
Before concluding, I’d just like to quickly point out that if Austin Seferian-Jenkins is indeed brought in, it will be to replace Levine Toilolo, not Austin Hooper. He would work with Hooper in tandem to solidify the tight end position for the Falcons.