When the Falcons cut Robert Alford recently, very few fans were surprised by the move. What was surprising was the number of fans asking for the same to be done with former first round pick Desmond Trufant. While 2018 wasn’t one of his best seasons, the idea that he’s a poor player is foolish. Trufant may not be a top-10 corner like we all hoped he’d be, but he’s still a quality player. The real question is how much longer that is likely to last, which we will dive into here.
His age and caliber of play
The Falcons drafted Trufant in 2013 with the 22nd pick of the first round. He’ll turn 29 years old this September, which puts him on the doorstep of the infamous 30-wall everyone always thinks about. In those six seasons, Tru has never been graded lower than 70 according to PFF, which is their standard for “above average.” He’s had a few seasons that ranked as “high quality” and this has been on the back end of defenses that have had pretty terrible pass rush units, no less.
There are no outward signs that Desmond is slowing down or declining in any noticeable way. If the team can address the pass rushing woes this off-season, there’s no reason to believe Trufant can’t also have a strong year as well. He’s got elite level talent and is one of the more fundamentally sound corners in the league.
In April of 2017, the team gave Trufant a 5 year extension worth a total of 68.75 million with $42 million guaranteed. At the time, it was top-4 money for the position. For 2019, cutting Trufant is out of the question as he will be a negative hit against the cap. In 2020 - the year he turns 30 - the team could cut him and realize a cap savings of nearly 5 million (with over 10 million in dead money). Realistically, 2021 is the year to pay attention to, since the team can save over 10 million against the cap with a little over 5 million in dead money. The last year of his deal is 2022.
Where corners are concerned, two names jump to mind when considering longevity: Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson. Revis was the best corner in the league but fans witnessed a steep, immediate decline in his play when he hit 30 years old. The decline was so rapid that Revis wasn’t even on an NFL team in 2018 at just 33 years old. Charles Woodson, on the other hand, had a highly productive career into his late 30s. Granted, he switched over to safety in his early thirties, but he did end up playing until he was 39 years old, finishing his career at a pretty high level as well.
As for Trufant, if we split the difference, we may hope that he’s able to play at a high level until age 33 or 34. Anything past that point is gravy. Given that his contract goes through his age 32 season, if he does get another contract with the Falcons, it will likely be a short-term deal. Right now, another contract doesn’t seem likely and playing out the current deal to 2022 rarely happens these days. Unless his play drops dramatically in 2020, I’d imagine Trufant will be in Atlanta for 2 or 3 more years. Let’s hope they are all quality ones.