During the Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff presser this week, the Falcons GM indicated that they would have a busy offseason trying to improve the roster. How Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley will factor into those plans remains to be seen.
Quinn made it clear the team wanted to get Grady Jarrett signed to a long-term deal, along with getting other key players extensions and exploring free agent options. However, Dimitroff seemed less enthusiastic about Beasley. Though he and Quinn reiterated they still believe in his “potential,” it was clear that there is a considerable amount of hesitance where the former first round pick is concerned.
That hesitance is likely due to the poor production from Beasley in recent years combined with a $12.8 million price tag for 2019. In fact, this clash of price and productivity could have the team and Beasley heading for an impasse — one that may ultimately lead to Vic being on another team in 2019. Here’s how we got to this point.
The fifth-year option
As with many first-round draft picks, the Falcons decided to exercise the fifth-year option on Beasley. Coming off of a league-leading 15.5 sacks in 2016 and an injury-marred 2017, there was reason to believe the pass rusher could bounce back this year. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened.
Vic’s production dropped to just five sacks in 2017 and 2018 was identical. Anyone who watched the team every week could tell you that those numbers aren’t even that impressive, as Beasley would disappear for long stretches without producing any pressure on the opposing QB.
That fifth-year option will cost the Falcons $12.8 million in 2019, fully guaranteed. Given his steep drop-off in productivity, that is a very large number to pay for a guy who is essentially a rotational pass rusher at best. There’s every reason to believe the team will make moves to avoid paying that nearly $13 million price tag in 2019. The only way to do that is to either a) get Vic signed to a long-term extension or b) rescind the fifth-year option before it becomes guaranteed.
Working on an extension
While many fans have indicated they wouldn’t mind seeing Beasley signed to a cheap extension, the possibility of that happening is unlikely. Here’s why.
Right now, Beasley is looking at $12.8 million guaranteed in 2019. That is the starting point for any contract negotiation. There’s no reason for him to take less than that in 2019. The only recourse the Falcons have for not paying that amount is to rescind the option, which makes Vic a free agent and allows him to negotiate with any team in the league.
Additionally, any good agent is going to make the argument that your only option for keeping Beasley past 2019 (without an extension) is to apply the franchise tag. Based on his position, that tag is likely to be worth a minimum of $15 million in 2020. Therefore, any extension with the Falcons would need to have guarantees of at least $28 million ($12.8 million fifth year + $15 million franchise tag). This is a common negotiating tactic for agents in the NFL. A fully guaranteed $28 million for Beasley could be a very tough pill to swallow and is a number the team will likely not want to pay, especially since that is the starting point.
The open market
Ultimately, the Falcons best bet may be to let Beasley hit the open market. They don’t want to pay him $12.8 million in 2019 and an extension with $28+ million guaranteed is unlikely to get done. By rescinding the fifth-year option, Beasley and his agent could begin talking to other teams about getting a long-term deal done.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: What team is going to sign Beasley to a lucrative long-term deal? If there’s one thing the NFL has shown, it’s that pass rushers and quarterbacks are often overvalued, no matter what their productivity has been. On top of that, Beasley does have the 2016 season to lean on, and you better believe his agent will portray the Falcons as an organization that had “no idea” how to properly use this elite talent. That argument has a high likelihood of getting one of the other 31 other teams to bite, especially when you consider how hard it is to find good pass rushers in this league.
It’s still possible the Falcons can convince Beasley and his agent that their best bet is to sign an extension with the team. They may also choose to pay the $12.8 million in 2019 with the hopes that they can get him locked into a long-term deal that will help save money in 2019 while not overpaying in the long run.
However, with the productivity drop-off and the likely guaranteed money he and his agent will be angling for, it’s looking more and more like Vic Beasley’s time in Atlanta may be coming to an end.