As we ponder here at The Falcoholic what the burning questions are for the 2019 season, our attention squares right in on the Falcons’ highest-paid pass rusher, Vic Beasley.
Indeed, though he’s not been the team’s best rusher since 2016 and is coming off a widely disappointing 2018, Beasley’s fifth-year option nets him roughly $12 million for a 2019 salary and ensures he’ll be a prominent member of the team’s front four.
Though, what are the scenarios for Beasley’s 2019, his future with the team and what happens if he does or does not answer the call to regain at least somewhat of his 2016 form?
First, you must look at Beasley’s potential for production. In 2018, he had five sacks, which matches his 2017 total. You can’t always look at sacks as an indicator of a pass rusher’s overall impact, but pairing those the numbers with the amount of snaps we know Beasley took last year does tell a good story for what the eye test showed. It hints to sporadic production; occasional pressure with laps of anonymity.
It tells of a player who can get to the quarterback on occasion, but is too inconsistent to really justify a starting spot on the roster. Though, his youth, sky-high potential and 15.5-sack season three years ago keep him in Atlanta’s plans right now.
Let’s say he turns it around. It’s possible he could have a 10-11 sack year and show much more consistent pressure and versatility with Dan Quinn calling the plays on defense now and taking an added focus to Beasley’s development. We’ll assume he shows more prowess in his pass rush moves and gives the defensive line the impact it needs from a starter.
In this case, do the Falcons extend him? Part of me wonders if they’ll just be happy with getting their money’s worth out of Beasley for 2019 and let him move on to a lucrative contract elsewhere. But GM Thomas Dimitroff loves keeping his draft picks, and it’s possible Atlanta pays him to be a starter for the years to come.
That’d be a risk, but it’d also be a commitment to Quinn, since he’d be partly to credit for the turnaround. If Beasley makes the right adjustments, it bodes well for the team’s general improvements.
Let’s say he remains static. The impact still isn’t consistent, his pass rush moves remain focused on pure speed with no counter and he fizzled with a 4-6 sack season.
It’d make it mighty hard for Atlanta to justify keeping him, and in this scenario, it’s possible he’s demoted for other options on the roster or a potential mid-season addition, a la Bruce Irvin in 2018.
In this world, the Falcons’ defensive line would need Takkarist McKinley to turn on the jets and play to his potential, giving Atlanta a definitive good pass rushing option to pair with Adrian Clayborn. Though, it’d sink really hard into the team’s 2019 offseason decision making, knowing they gave Beasley that money when it could’ve been allocated elsewhere for a better free agent pass rusher (Justin Houston, anyone?).
Beasley would assuredly be gone in 2020 if he disappoints, though he could hypothetically stick around on a smaller deal as a rotational rusher if Dimitroff is bent on keeping him.
Really, Beasley’s 2019 is crucial. If he is successful, it shows the team’s decision to pay him was worth it and proves Quinn’s more hands-on approach to the defense paid off, at least somewhat. If he really is better, extending him would make more sense if it happened.
Though, if he doesn’t turn it around, it’s a bad investment on the team’s part at a time when they really can’t afford a ton of those, and gives them an uphill battle for 2019 on the defensive line. It also puts more pressure on McKinley to have a major role in getting after the quarterback.
It’s imperative Beasley do his best to live up to the faith and funds put into him. Whether he does or doesn’t will very much decide his future with the Falcons, and will have a direct impact on 2019’s prospects and the way we look at how Dimitroff and Quinn ran 2019’s offseason.