Getting Matt Ryan’s extension done was the team’s most pressing offseason priority, as Falcons brass indicated repeatedly throughout the offseason. With Ryan locked up—and a teeny tiny bit of cap savings realized through that signing—the Falcons will now begin to explore contract extensions with some of next year’s impending free agents.
As Dimitroff indicated earlier today, Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett sit atop their list. I’m not a soothsayer, but I suspect the team will try to get Matthews done first to mitigate his nearly $12.5 million cap hit for 2018, and then use the savings to get Jarrett (and others) squared away.
Listening to #Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s interview on @929TheGame this morning, Dimitroff says now with Matt Ryan’s contract done, the focus turns to getting new deals for 2 guys: Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett.— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) May 7, 2018
Both players deserve extensions. Jake Matthews isn’t the best left tackle in football, but he’s been decidedly above average since an injury-marred, shaky rookie campaign. His play, his age (he’s still only 26), and the difficulty of finding quality left tackles in the draft in recent years means the Falcons aren’t going to think twice about bringing him back, and hopefully if they strike now they can get a reasonable deal done for the next four-to-six seasons.
Grady Jarrett, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the stars of this young defense. After putting himself firmly on the map nationally by sacking Tom Brady three times in the 2016 Super Bowl, Jarrett put together a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2017 that saw him cause havoc in many, many backfields. With rookie Deadrin Senat joining him on the line, locking up Jarrett would ensure the Falcons have two promising young players on the interior for the next four-plus seasons, and he’s got to be a top priority given his obvious talent and production.
Once those two are done, the Falcons may look at the three big names remaining on their 2019 free agent list. Ricardo Allen will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in 2019 and will be looking to cash in after playing multiple years at an absurdly cheap salary for a starting safety of his caliber, and the team has indicated they’ll make every effort to keep him around. I’m less certain about Andy Levitre, who will be 33 next year and is coming off an injury, and Tevin Coleman, because the Falcons simply may not have enough cash or willingness to pay two running backs starter money as they begin to plan extensions for Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and a handful of others.
With any luck, the Falcons will be able to get these deals done in short order, so we don’t need to fret about them deep into the summer, into the season, or even into 2019.