The Atlanta Falcons are heading into 2019 with a pass rush that may or may not work out.
Now, that’s not say a group primarily consisting of Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, Adrian Clayborn and rookie John Cominsky as the top four rushers will be bad—it could actually be excellent—but it’s still a group that could use a little more proven talent.
Beasley and McKinley have all the potential in the world, but Beasley struggled until late and Takk himself would probably tell you he didn’t quite land where he wanted to. Clayborn is a guy we all know can be nasty and get production under Dan Quinn, and Cominsky is quite raw, though talented.
With Steven Means’ Achilles injury and the recent visit for Allen Bailey, the team shows that it knows it needs some more help here.
The free agent pool is decent, with guys like Bailey, Nick Perry, Derrick Morgan, Connor Barwin, William Hayes, Frostee Rucker and Dion Jordan still available, but what about guys that could hypothetically be on the trade block?
We investigate potential names and price guesses for some names around the league.
Okay, we’ll be honest, we found a name that just makes so much sense for the first suggestion, and two names that sound nice on paper.
DE Anthony Zettel
Anthony Zettel was an odd waived player by the Detroit Lions in 2018 before he landed in Cleveland. His 6.5 sack, 31 tackle 2017 remains intriguing, even if he didn’t match it in 2018 in a crowded Browns defensive line rotation.
The room isn’t any more plentiful for the team this season, and they have a new defensive coordinator in Steve Wilks. Zettel could be nice utility player for the Falcons front four who can chip in decently against the pass and run. His 2017 season gives you hope he could flourish in an expanded role, and perhaps that’s what Atlanta could give him.
Terms: Zettel for a 2020 sixth-round pick
OLB Ryan Anderson
Anderson hasn’t lived up to his draft status in Washington, though the Alabama alum still has plenty of time on the clock to come into his own. In the Hog Haven, he’s only had two sacks, but had 11 tackles last season.
He’s a guy who could perhaps use a change of scenery to really get his career going, and would no doubt fill Steven Means’ place on special teams. Enter Ben Kotwica, who had Anderson on his special teams unit when the two were together last season. Perhaps Kotwica could put in a word for him and the team would be interested in him for depth? It’s a bit of a long shot, to be honest, but it’s worth considering.
Terms: Anderson for a 2020 conditional seventh-round pick
DE Solomon Thomas
The 49ers have no shortage of defensive ends in-house, but 2017 first-round pick Solomon Thomas has struggled to stand out among the group. He’s only got four sacks in two seasons and 72 tackles overall, and has been overshadowed by others on the defensive line.
The Niners have a lot of money invested in the defensive line, and just drafted Nick Bosa. Between Bosa, Arik Armestead and Dee Ford, Thomas is the fourth option at edge, and that’s if you don’t count DL DeForest Buckner, who moves outside sometimes.
There were talks of trade this spring for Thomas, but nothing ever materialized. Could the team get interested in an offer now? Again, we’re just spitballing here, but Thomas still has upside and would add more beef to the Falcons DL.
Terms: Thomas for a 2020 fifth-round pick
I’ll be honest: the trade options are scarce. There’s not a clear cut option that just makes a ton of sense, and there are a few names that would be fun but just aren’t realistic with Atlanta’s cap situation being what it is.
The best path forward for Atlanta is that adding from that free agent pool on a one-year deal, but none of those guys move the needle a ton. Bailey really is the best option available, so let’s hope that happens!
If it doesn’t, opportunity still arises. Zettel is my favorite by far of the trade options, given likely cost and fit. Looking through every likely trade partner in the NFL, there just aren’t a lot of guys that’ll find themselves on the cutting block, at least not at first glance.
By and large, Atlanta has what it has for 2019. They can add, but the best play will have to come from the guys on the roster, just as they’ve suggested it will all along.