The Falcons have had an unbelievably bad run of injury luck of late, which has unfortunately continued into the early summer. It’s only the second day of training camp, yet the Falcons have lost a key reserve defensive lineman in Steven Means, a potential rotational defensive tackle in Mike Bennett, and their presumed third safety in J.J. Wilcox.
Those injuries left voids on the roster, and while the Falcons aren’t going to do this every time given available roles and dollars, they went out and snagged a starting-caliber player this time. Allen Bailey is, considering the options on the market, the best possible replacement for Means and Bennett, and a player who should help these Falcons a lot over the life of his two-year deal...if he stays both seasons.
What the contract means
The Falcons are using their available funds to make this what sure looks like a one-year deal with an option for a second year. Per Adam Schefter, the team is sinking $6 million ($3.5 million in guarantees) into the 2019 portion of this deal, and will have $4.5 million and an unknown amount of guaranteed cash into the second year. If all goes well Bailey will be useful for both seasons, but they probably can get out of it if they need to because of cash constraints in year two.
That flexibility could be very important. It’s worth remembering that Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison, and Ra’Shede Hageman (if he even makes the roster) are all free agents heading into 2020, while the only defensive end under contract next year will be Takk McKinley. Bailey can play inside and outside if needed, but he’ll likely mix in heavily at end for the Falcons this year and could take on a huge share of snaps in 2020 if the Falcons choose not to bring back Adrian Clayborn.
Bailey’s deal also points to him getting a real role this year. The real question is where, given the number of bodies, but the Falcons are likely to weed out players as the summer goes along to help us answer that question. I’d expect Bailey to have a prominent role at defensive end on early downs alongside Takk and Clayborn, with the possibility of passing down snaps at defensive tackle with Jarrett or Crawford as well. I should note that the Chiefs also played Bailey at linebacker at times in 2017, which is unlikely to happen here but is an amusing footnote.
How Bailey can help
In a lot of ways, thankfully. Bailey has experience at end, tackle, and as I mentioned above, even linebacker. He’s a powerfully built, athletic defender with a solid history of getting after the quarterback, including six sacks last year and five back in 2014. He’s also capable and strong at the line of scrimmage as a run defender.
That solid all-around game makes him a nice fit for a Falcons defensive line that could use a bit more of everything, and the prowess against the run means he could be a factor at defensive tackle and defensive end in base packages. Even if he’s not a de facto starter, Bailey should find plenty of snaps in relief of the team’s starters, with his signing likely meaning that Deadrin Senat and John Cominsky are both ticketed for smaller roles in 2019.
We’ll have to see where Bailey’s lining up in training camp and preseason once he gets out there, but on first blush this is a rock solid signing in reaction to a pair of worrying injuries along the defensive line, and gives the Falcons a player Quinn can deploy in myriad ways. If Bailey tops out as a rotational option inside and outside and quality insurance for further injuries he’ll be a fine signing, but it’s entirely possible he takes on a major role on early downs. Either way, the Falcons look a lot deeper and tougher up front than they did yesterday morning, and with this defensive line’s history we’ll take all we can get.