The Falcons have some interesting decisions to make in the upcoming 2019 free agency period. Tevin Coleman—who carried the load for Atlanta in 2018 and has been one of the NFL’s premier receiving backs since joining the team in 2015—will be hitting the open market. Spotrac currently has Coleman’s value at around $5M/year, which probably prices him out of the Falcons’ plans in 2019 and beyond.
If Coleman were to depart in free agency, that would leave Atlanta with four RBs under contract for the upcoming season. Only two, Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, are “proven” assets that can be depended on to play meaningful snaps. The others are Brian Hill—who returned to the team this year after being cut during his rookie season—and Jeremy Langford, who looked somewhat promising early in his career but quickly fell out of favor in Chicago.
Hill probably has the best chance of the two to stick around, as the team seems to like his potential as a FB. Langford is probably just a camp body. With the uncertainty surrounding Freeman’s durability after an injury-marred season, Atlanta would be wise to add another quality RB to the rotation. Looking at what the Falcons have on the roster, it seems clear that they should target a receiving and/or third down specialist to fill the void left by Coleman.
There are some options in the draft—Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill is a particular favorite of mine (plus, wouldn’t it be great to have a player named Justice and a player nicknamed “The Judge” in the same RB group?)—but the Falcons could also consider some of the available players in free agency.
Players like Charcandrick West, Ty Montgomery, and Ameer Abdullah could all offer something to a team like Atlanta and shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. However, one name stands out from the pack: ex-Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who recently spent the past few seasons with Dirk Koetter in Tampa Bay.
The connection is almost too obvious. Quizz’s skillset fills a void in the Falcons’ RB rotation. Even though he’s a small back at only 5’6, 205, Rodgers is an excellent pass protector and a quality pass-catching option. His shifty and surprisingly physical running style fits in perfectly with what Atlanta likes from their RBs, and we’ve seen that Quizz can even carry the load on the ground if needed in an emergency situation—we saw him go for over 100 yards in back-to-back games during the 2016 season.
Then there’s his history with the Falcons, which includes this great play in the 2012 NFC Divisional game. It’s one of the most entertaining in recent memory.
Quizz was originally drafted by the Falcons in 2011, and spent his entire rookie contract with the team. Rodgers had several quality years in Atlanta, particulary in 2012 and 2013 where he had over 50 receptions in back-to-back seasons. Matt Ryan reportedly loved Quizz—as did many fans, including myself—and there is even a recent picture of the two embracing before a game.
However, when Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter were let go after the 2014 season, Quizz was not re-signed. The two parties went their separate ways. Quizz spent 2015 as a backup with the Bears, before joining Dirk Koetter in Tampa Bay in 2016. Rodgers had an exceptional 2016 as a reserve-turned-starter after injuries struck, and the Bucs brought him back on a two-year deal from 2017-2018. Now, that deal has expired, and Quizz finds himself in a familiar situation: forced to part ways with a team that is cleaning house.
It’s clear that Koetter likes Rodgers. It’s also pretty clear that Ryan likes Rodgers. The fans like Rodgers, too. Financially, Quizz should be pretty easy to sign: he was making about $1.7M/year in Tampa Bay. That’s about a third of what the team would be paying to re-sign Tevin Coleman. Although Quizz doesn’t offer the explosive plays that Coleman brought to the table, he’s a far better pass protector and a more consistent runner.
Quizz is getting up there in terms of age for an RB: he’ll be 29 during the 2019 season. So, if anything, Quizz should be considered as a 1-2 year stopgap measure. At some point, the Falcons will have to make a decision on Freeman’s future with the team, too. With the RB position very much in flux, it makes a lot of sense for Atlanta to bring in a reliable veteran like Jacquizz Rodgers—who both the offensive coordinator and QB are familiar with—to stabilize things in 2019. This one seems like it’s destined to happen.
What say you, Falcons fans? Are you open to the idea of the Falcons bringing back Quizz on an affordable contract to bolster the RB depth? Or would prefer the team add someone else, or perhaps go after a player in the 2019 NFL Draft?