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What Grady Jarrett’s new contract means for the Falcons

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The team made the right move and took care of one of their stars, even if it came down to the wire.

Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns

Over the weekend, I looked at what the potential costs of failing to reach a long-term agreement with Grady Jarrett would be for the Falcons. They were, to put it mildly, not pretty. The only move the Falcons could make that wouldn’t leave them in an even worse spot a year from now or potentially even letting Jarrett walk—a borderline catastrophe for a team that hasn’t exactly sprouted stud defensive linemen left and right—was the one they ultimately made.

It came down to the wire, but the Falcons announced a new deal with Jarrett right before the Monday 4 p.m. deadline for players to get deals or play 2019 under the franchise tag. If that move had our nerves jangling all day (and it did), at least the outcome was the one we needed.

Now it’s time to take a step back and talk about what this deal means for Jarrett and for the team. Let’s dive in.

What it means for Jarrett

The man is finally getting paid what he deserves, even if the deal is surprisingly team-friendly on first glance. Jarrett came in as a surprise fifth rounder to the team that employed his borderline-Hall-of-Famer dad and has been good-to-stellar since, finishing the last two seasons with a combined 10 sacks and 29 quarterback hits, playing well against the run and as a pass rusher. He’s been durable, missing just three games in four seasons, and generally dominates the snaps at defensive tackle. Given that he’s just 26 years old and obviously the team’s best defensive lineman, letting him go was not a realistic option.

So Jarrett gets security on a four year deal and gets paid as one of the top defensive tackles in the league. Coming off a season where Pro Football Focus had him in the top five for his position and the eye test told you he was great despite the chaos around him, it’s richly deserved. Job security, $$$ and the status that comes with having a contract like this all have to feel pretty great for Jarrett.

What it means for the Falcons

A lot. Jarrett is the closest thing to an essential player the Falcons have along the defensive line, with Takk McKinley hopefully catching up to him a bit this year. The team could have cobbled together a halfway decent defensive tackle grouping going forward if they had to let Jarrett walk, but they’d be losing a great player in the process and once again settling for less in a unit where that’s all too common.

On the field, Jarrett serves as one of the team’s better run stuffers, with the ability to drop backs in the backfield. His physicality and hustle matter up front, even if the team added Tyeler Davison and Ra’Shede Hageman in an effort to get better and deeper around him. He’s also the team’s best pass rushing defensive tackle—Jack Crawford had a great year last year, but he’s simply not as talented as Jarrett—and having him there gives the team stability they need with free agency looming for Crawford, Davison, and Hageman in 2020. The Falcons will have to make a tough decision about Vic Beasley this offseason too, depending on how his 2019 season goes, and knowing that Jarrett and McKinley are here as building blocks helps the Falcons figure out what to do next.

The Falcons got a deal I suspect they think is a bit of a steal, even if the overall structure is pretty good for Jarrett. There were plenty of rumors and whispers that Jarrett was gunning for Aaron Donald money, and while those were obviously off based on the end result, I still thought he’d wind up around $18 or $19 million. Originally I wrote that there were other DTs in his age/talent bracket getting that kind of money, but I was off about that one, and Jarrett is pulling down one of the three or so higest paid defensive tackles in the NFL per annual average. Given my expectations, I still think this was a great deal for the Falcons, but it’s also a great deal for Jarrett.

They’ll now have Jarrett through his age 29 season, which should encompass his prime, and can turn their attention to Julio Jones and the upcoming crop of impending free agents, including Deion Jones and Austin Hooper. The difference between what they’re paying Jarrett now and what they would have paid him under the tag will help make those deals possible.

For the “he’s not worth it” crowd, he is. The sack numbers don’t compare to an Aaron Donald, sure, but he’s not getting Aaron Donald money, and he’s all over the quarterback at a clip that suggests he could get to double digits with a better defensive line around him. He’ll have a great year and should have a great four years, and now the Falcon’s won’t be hamstrung by a franchise tag this year and won’t have to make really tough decisions next year, when the franchise tag would have been $18 million or so and the team might’ve had to pay even more for their star defensive tackle.

You can probably tell I’m thrilled this deal is done, and while your mileage may vary a little bit, it’s certainly tough to be mad at the fact that the Falcons retained their best defensive lineman. If Jarrett keeps the good times rolling, Deadrin Senat grows this year, and Takk breaks out, we will hopefully be on our way to seeing a good Falcons defense in the near future.