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What the Falcons not ponying up for Michael Bennett says about their plans

Make no bones about it — the Falcons could’ve had Bennett if they’d wanted him.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Well, as I’m sure you know, DE Michael Bennett is, in fact, not an Atlanta Falcon.

After I, as the kids say, “got out of my feels,” the “well, why didn’t this happen” part of my brain kicked in, and I really began to think about, well, why didn’t this happen.

So, the eventual price — the Eagles gave up a fifth rounder and a random receiver in exchange for Bennett and a seventh. That’s cheap for a disruptive edge rusher still in his better years. So, let us try to reason with why Atlanta didn’t just pay the fourth-rounder price and get Bennett here.

Seriously, what gives?

One could argue the team’s lack of a fifth-rounder stopped this one dead in the tracks (the fifth rounder given to Denver for Ty Sambrailo), and that the hasty decision to patch up the swing tackle spot cost them a chance at a strong rotational defensive lineman. One could argue that the Falcons didn’t want to pay out his current contract, which would escalate as time goes on, particularly with key defenders Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and De’Vondre Campbell all needing deals within the next few seasons. One could argue that Dan Quinn, the king of defensive talent evaluation, just didn’t think his old player had enough left in the tank to justify parting ways with a fourth-round pick. One could argue the team didn’t want to irk the members of the fan base who were vocal about not wanting Bennett around due to his off-field storylines (though, I hope that isn’t the case, being that they opened up talks in the first place). One could argue the Falcons have a bigger plan in mind.

Whatever the reason, Bennett’s not in Atlanta, and the team’s plan for its defensive line remains unclear (though, that, obviously, does not mean they plan on standing pat).

It’s easy, and fair, to be bummed about the situation, but this wasn’t a situation of “they missed the boat.” It was “they didn’t want to make the deal for what it would’ve cost them.” If the team really did want Michael Bennett, he would be here right now. The Falcons had the draft capital to pull this off. They just didn’t. It’s, right or wrong, a statement on how they felt about the possible move. They probably offered a sixth, or a fifth in 2019, but wouldn’t budge on keeping their fourth rounder. Whether that’s a wise move or not...I dunno. But, I do think it highlights a bit of Quinn’s grand plan for this roster.

He’s going to build the Atlanta Falcons in his time and in his way, and he’s not going to overpay to do it unless he feels it’s necessary.

Trying to make generalizations about this being anything other than just what the organization felt was best to pass on isn’t going to get us anywhere. Sure, it’s a move this writer was keen on happening, but the Falcons clearly just weren’t all that concerned with its perceived importance. For them not to give up a mid-round draft pick for Bennett could mean they’ve got something else in mind they like better, or it could just mean they value their ability to draft and don’t want to mess with this year’s order. No matter what, the price wasn’t right for Atlanta, so they didn’t bite. It’s very much too soon to say if that was the right move or not in the long run (though, for now, it’s kind of crummy to think about Bennett in Philly, strengthening one of Atlanta’s already-strong opponents for the NFC crown). It’s fair to argue if it would have just been good strategy to give up the fourth rounder on Bennett to keep him out of the NFC.

But, again, this is Quinn’s team, and he’s got a goal to getting them back to the Super Bowl. He’s not just going to sit on his hands and not try to get this accomplished. After cutting Derrick Shelby and Levine Toilolo, he’s shown he’s not going to settle for complacency at any position, no matter if it means admitting certain free agency moves weren’t the best use of resources. No one can accuse this guy of standing pat when a move needs to be made, one of the defining flaws of the Mike Smith era.

Quinn’s going to get something done for this defensive line, whether that be via a trade, free agency (where, admittedly, the class is perhaps highlighted by presumably-outgoing DE Adrian Clayborn) or the draft. Perhaps he’s got a handful of guys he’s salivating over for April. Perhaps he’s got his eye on a guy in FA who he thinks would benefit the team in Clayborn’s role at a lesser cost. Perhaps the team could swing a trade and give up less in the process, or find a buyer who would take a 2019 pick. It’s a bummer to see the team opt not to trade for Bennett, but at the end of the day, they’ve earned the right to gain our trust on defensive personnel moves with Quinn at the helm. Not making the move stung (I really did think they screwed up at first, would’ve made the trade myself and still am uneasy about Bennett being with Philly), but with more reflection, I suppose there’s an unknown reason as to why the team opted to let this boat sail away.

At the end of the day, there are two truths here — one, the Falcons didn’t “lose out” on Bennett; they chose not make the moves necessary to get him (which were meager for a player of his caliber), and two, they’re not going to get complacent with this defensive line. Quinn was brought here to build a monstrous pass rush. He’s not gotten there yet, but he deserves time to get there and make it work. Though, year four is approaching, so sooner would be better than later.

But, hey, look at what they’ve got now. Takk McKinley’s poised to get better, Vic Beasley will benefit from being able to solely rush next season, Grady Jarrett is becoming a force in the interior and Brooks Reed is still a good rotational edge, if a bit pricey for his services. After that, though, the team is in obvious need of pass rushers if Clayborn is out the door. Where that help will come from, I have no idea. But, well, I guess all we can do is trust Quinn and company to make it happen.

To be very honest, there are far, far, far, far worse positions to be in.