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Making sense of the Falcons paying Vic Beasley $12.8 million in 2019

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We did not expect this and are now going through the stages of grief.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The five stages of grief are, in order, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance. Thanks to being die hard Falcons fans, we are very adept at processing through the stages of grief and have finally hit acceptance.

Sure, we looked for any way around Dan Quinn’s statement about keeping Vic Beasley, cursed Thomas Dimitroff for what feels like a Sam Baker-esque hold onto an underperforming first-round pick, tried to convince ourselves a comp pick is worth the $12.8 million, the familiar depression, and this morning, coming to terms of the decision.

How can the Falcons pay a pass rusher with only 5 sacks in 2018 $12.8 million in 2019?

Beasley has averaged 5 sacks per year in the last two years. This is not a situation where those numbers don’t show the full story. Beasley was every bit as invisible as those stats suggest. There are questions about his effort, dedication, and his pass rush moves (or move). He looked a little better late in 2018 when his snaps were cut back but still far from the impact player he was in 2016.

The biggest issue is looking at the type of player the Falcons could nab for similar pay. We covered that when looking at Atlanta’s options with the fifth-year option.

The Falcons can’t spread out that cap hit, forcing them to pay serious dollars all at once. Looking at 2018’s free agent class, this annual amount slots right below Andrew Norwell’s deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Falcons could add defensive line help on players similar to Star Lotulelei (five-year, $50 million) and Dontari Poe (three-year, $28 million). It’s not clear Beasley is comparable to either player.

The Falcons additionally moved on from some long-time Falcons, most importantly Matt Bryant, to clear up cap space. There’s no taking the edge off of that. The team god rid of proven players in the hopes Beasley is more 2016 than 2015 and 2017 through 2018.

The cost of pass rushers

This move may only make sense for a few reasons.

First, Thomas Dimitroff has shown he really, really wants to give his bad first-round picks second and third chances. I’m looking at you Sam Baker, Peria Jerry, Sean Weatherspoon, and Peter Konz (first Atlanta pick of 2012). All players were kept around for too long in the hopes they could prove they weren’t wasted picks. That’s not a good reason but the reality is the move may be made for Dimitroff to save face.

Second, Dan Quinn has gotten rid of Marquand Manuel and will now run the defense. This move makes sense if Quinn believed Beasley was poorly coached or poorly used and he can do better. With everything on the line, Quinn may be betting his 2020 on turning around Beasley in 2019.

Third and most importantly, pass rushers have become absurdly expensive. Dimitroff has been looking for a pass rusher his entire Falcons career, with no real answer since he criminally cut Jon Abraham for Osi Umenyiora. They are not easy to find which is why they are so expensive. Atlanta’s free agent defensive ends are highlighted by Osi, Ray Edwards, and Brooks Reed.

Khalil Mack is averaging $23.5 million per year. Von Miller averages above $19 million per year. It is widely expected that DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, and other top, young pass rushers will cost north of $20 million.

Considering those numbers, $13 million could very well be the cost of a one-year deal for an extremely inconsistent pass rusher with upside.

Betting on resurgence

I can’t fault the Falcons for taking a chance on a young player at a premium position. I can fault them for doing it with Beasley who has shown so little in the past two seasons. I may be skeptical having seen Beasley play but I am confident I would feel differently had Beasley played elsewhere.

Case in point, the Falcons handed Poe $8 million despite a few underwhelming seasons. I was ecstatic with the signing but Poe proved to be underwhelming. Beasley has arguably had more highs in his career than Poe, along with better conditioning and fewer career snaps at a more premium position.

Beasley is a risk but a reasonable risk considering his 2016 season, the team’s lack of depth at defensive end, the cost of pass rushers, and the tough nature in finding premium pass rushers. Can he put it together? I suppose anything is possible.

This is still going to turn out bad, right?

Probably! The Falcons could almost assuredly sign a veteran for less money that would have a bigger impact, say Brandon Graham or Robert Quinn. However, this move is made with the future in mind and not just 2019, and that, my friends, is the stage of acceptance.