Dan Quinn’s continued coaching career is heavily reliant on Vic Beasley. The league’s top pass rusher in 2016 had become an afterthought before entering 2019, frequently blocked out of plays by backup tackles and even tight ends. There were very few positives from Beasley from 2017 to 2018.
Few, if any, believed the Falcons would not rescind Beasley’s $12.8 million fifth-year option, with only some under the belief the Falcons may try to bring him back on a much smaller deal that would allow Beasley to show improvement then earn a big deal the following season.
The Falcons, shockingly, passed on rescinding the option. The team bore the full $12.8 million cap hit in one season, while a separate deal would provide them some insurance with workout bonuses, roster bonuses, and even performance bonuses. The Falcons had no protection if Beasley continued to play poorly. More importantly, if the Falcons could fix Beasley, they had no chance of affording him into 2019.
It was an expensive, no-win, one-year rental with no protection for the team. The huge cap hit limited the team in free agency as they quickly bumped up again to the salary cap. Beasley, of course, has not been fixed. His objectively poor performance is a big reason Dan Quinn, and likely Thomas Dimitroff, will be looking for new employment in the near future.
Why would the Falcons make such a clearly bad decision? Per Jeff Schultz of The Athletic in a wide-ranging criticism of the team, including ownership, the front office, coaches, and players, the Falcons wanted to maintain their relationship with Beasley’s agent.
The Falcons were concerned cutting Beasley loose would upset CAA, which also represents Jones and Jarrett, both of whom were entering offseason negotiation.
This is not the first time we have heard of Dimitroff’s unusually team-unfriendly relationship with Creative Artists Agency (CAA). CAA Football, essentially operated by super agent Tom Condon, has been the negotiator of a number of record-breaking or otherwise shocking contracts signed by the Falcons.
As you may be aware, CAA represents or represented Matt Ryan, Deion Jones, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Tony Gonzalez, and even Sam Baker. The firm had multiple players who signed record-breaking contracts, or players who signed deals well above any reasonable expectation of what they could receive in free agency, such as Sam Baker.
Dave Choate noted the possible connection back in March.
Still, it’s worth acknowledging just how complex these kinds of negotiations can be, and how many factors go into them that are largely invisible to those of us outside them. In the case of Grady Jarrett and the puzzling decision to keep Vic Beasley at $12.8 million, CAA and the powerhouse agency’s representation on the Falcons roster may well be a factor.
Choate later denies the suggestion that CAA is the reason Beasley was kept, but does not deny it may be a factor. Regardless, it remains problematic that CAA accounts for, at times, nearly half of the team’s cap space. Dimitroff appears to have bent over backwards to keep CAA happy and now the team is in serious cap trouble. Cap trouble is less important when the team is making the playoffs. At 1-7, it is a fireable offense.
This is not to say the Falcons would not have tried to revive their former first-round pick. Quinn sounded confident he could fix Beasley. The Falcons have historically given their players multiple chances, even when unwarranted, on top picks like Baker and Peria Jerry. Beasley may be just another one who is paid too much money to play bad football.
Ultimately, Dimitroff’s friendly relationship with CAA is just another sign of dysfunction in the Falcons organization. The team has fallen from playoff competitor to among the worst in the league faster than their Super Bowl lead disappeared. It is clear, as Schultz suggests, that the problem is not simply the players: The entire team is rotten.