UPDATE: I completely blanked on the fact that Hageman is going to be suspended for the first two games of the season, which would seem to work against him as well.
The Falcons have surprised us repeatedly this offseason, mostly by adding depth we didn’t expect them to add ahead of the draft and re-adding the likes of Adrian Clayborn. Mostly they’ve been surprises that were well-received across the fanbase, but this one’s inevitably going to get more of a mixed reception.
The Falcons have reportedly brought back Ra’Shede Hageman, their former second-round pick who was charged with and eventually pled guilty to domestic violence charges. When he was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List on Sept. 2, 2017, the Falcons cut him two days later, and he’s been out of the NFL since. A DWI arrest in June seemed to doom his chances of returning anytime soon, but instead he’s back with the team that drafted him less than a year later.
Congrats to former Minneapolis Washburn HS and #Gophers DT Ra'Shede Hageman. Told he has signed with the Falcons. After multiple years out of the league, he is back where his pro career started. He was a 2nd round pick of Atl.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) April 19, 2019
We’re not ones to argue against second chances, and the Falcons clearly felt good enough about their workout and discussions with Hageman that signing him didn’t feel like a significant risk. But it is legitimately surprising to see a player who was dogged by questions about his effort level throughout his time in Atlanta and then unceremoniously cut after entering his guilty plea return to the same team, especially when that team has Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, Deadrin Senat, and a host of roster hopefuls already hanging around at defensive tackle.
Hageman’s return does not guarantee he’ll make the roster, of course, as he’s a 28-year-old DT at a crowded position who hasn’t played in a couple of years. But the Falcons always liked Hageman and his talent and power showed, however sporadically, that he can be a useful part of an NFL rotation at the position. He’ll push hard for a spot this summer, and if it doesn’t work out, the Falcons have done him the solid of giving him a cup of coffee so that other teams may be willing to do the same.
Big picture questions about the crowded depth chart at defensive tackle aside, and what it says about this team’s draft plans, the risk for the Falcons is minimal unless Hageman runs into more trouble, and the potential for him to make this team and make a difference is there. Even if it’s a bit surprising for the team to go this route, we’ll hope it ends up being a story with a happy ending.