In many ways, Vic Beasley was the most obvious draft choice of 2015. The Falcons needed an edge rusher desperately, Beasley was going to be available, and his athleticism made him a deeply intriguing talent for incoming head coach Dan Quinn. After four season of up-and-down play, Quinn is still intrigued.
That’s why Atlanta has essentially committed to keeping Beasley, who led the league in sacks in 2016 and has otherwise swung back and forth between “fine” and “disappointing.” The Falcons aren’t keeping him for the 2019 season because he managed a league-high sack total—he won on the same moves and speed he’s won or lost on his entire career, just with more frequency—but because they still believe his talent will win out over everything.
Quinn: Falcons plan to keep DE Beasley for '19 https://t.co/vXOGrRylaj— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) February 27, 2019
There is nothing wrong, inherently, with the team taking this stance. Beasley is a homegrown player who has nearly 30 sacks through four seasons, which puts him on pace to be one of the most productive pass rushers in team history, and he’s a community-focused guy who is easy to root for. That’s why I was hoping the Falcons would find a way to keep him (which they obviously wanted to do) with re-structuring his deal to turn it into a long-term pact with lower cap hits (which was always going to be more difficult). Vaughn McClure’s latest suggests that may not happen.
I can’t stress enough how mixed my feelings are. Beasley’s nearly $13 million cap hit is guaranteed only for injuries and extends only through this year, which means the Falcons can move on if he puts together another disappointing season. At the same time, they’ll have paid him nearly $13 million if that happens in a year where they’re trimming veterans left and right to free up cap space. If he lives up to his billing and lands a lucrative new deal as a result, no one’s going to be unhappy. If he doesn’t do so, everyone’s going to be unhappy.
Recent history certainly suggests that a major resurgence would be a surprise. Beasley’s 2018 was arguably his worst season yet, featuring a handful of strong games juxtaposed by a season of forgettable efforts that included missed tackles, the four-year defensive end being blocked out of plays entirely, and the occasional spin move gone awry. Beasley’s physical talent has never been in doubt, but his ability to turn that into elite productive remains very much in doubt, and that’s why Atlanta’s apparent willingness to keep him 2019 with or without a revised deal is concerning. They have a lot of big deals coming up now and in the immediate future, and some cold-blooded decisions are lurking whether we wish they were or not. If Beasley isn’t effective in the short-term, you’d hate to see Atlanta lose De’Vondre Campbell or an elite young player like Keanu Neal or Deion Jones because they were trying to keep their promising but frustrating young defensive end around.
There are many ways this could still play out, including a Beasley move to linebacker (where he did solidly) to a re-structure to Beasley just having everything click into place and ruining the world in 2019. But no matter how things play out from here, it looks like Vic Beasley will be an Atlanta Falcon again in 2019.