The Falcons like to try to get new contracts done during the season when they can, in the hopes that doing so will save them a buck or two in the long run. They’ve successfully done that in the past with the likes of Robert Alford and Ryan Schraeder, both excellent contracts at the time that were undone by a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness. It would not be a surprise to see them try to do that again with a couple of players not named Julio Jones and Grady Jarrett, in the hopes that they’ll negotiate a reasonably team-friendly contract ahead of the opening of free agency.
With that in mind, here are five Falcons who the team could look to negotiate new deals with before we hit next March, including one absolute must re-sign.
Debo cannot hit the open market, because the bidding war the Falcons would get into for his services would be insane. Jones is simply one of the best linebackers in football, an absolute athletic marvel with sideline-to-sideline coverage skills, the closing speed to make tackles almost anywhere on the field, and a knack for creating timely turnovers. If the Falcons can avoid having to use the franchise tag on him or having to negotiate against other teams by getting something done in the season itself, they’ll be well off. The chief obstacle is likely money, to your everlasting surprise.
Another pretty vital player, and one the Falcons would love to lock up. Hooper is still young and is coming off the best season of his career as both a blocker and receiver, and another strong year in a Dirk Koetter offense that is very tight end friendly. Something like a four year deal that takes Hooper close to his age-30 season would be a smart play, and again, the earlier you can get it done the more likely the team is to wind up with a deal they like. Hooper, like the guys above and below him on the list, would likely ignite a bidding war on the open market because of his talent and the shaky state of tight end play around the NFL.
Campbell is overshadowed by Jones, of course, but he’s a strong starter and would be in demand next March if the Falcons let him get there. Campbell’s coming off a solid season where he was heavily relied upon due to injuries, and he has consistently proven to be one of the team’s most physical linebackers and a capable pass rusher when called upon. The Falcons have no one waiting in the wings who is close to as capable as Campbell, and while he’s not going to be inexpensive, he’s not going to quite land the megadeals Hooper to a lesser extent and Debo in particular are going to get.
Crawford’s an interesting case. The Falcons have only one defensive tackle under contract heading into 2020 (Deadrin Senat), though they’ll hopefully also get their deal with Grady Jarrett done well before then. Crawford’s shown his value when healthy, racking up six sacks in 2018 and looking like one of the team’s most consistent defensive linemen. Locking him up for another couple of years—especially early on in the year, before he starts putting up numbers again—would be a smart play for this football team, which otherwise might find themselves in a bidding war in the spring for a player capable of bringing pressure on the interior in an era of league history where that’s vital.
Davison is another logical candidate. The Falcons got him for dirt cheap after he was a useful run-stopping starter on the Saints defensive line for the last few seasons, and if he plays well during the season, Atlanta may try to get out ahead by getting him on a reasonable multi-year deal. The Falcons are presumably going to want to give Senat a larger role at some point in the near future and are unlikely to re-sign both Crawford and Davison, but one or the other feels like an inevitably.