The Falcons will have to make a bevy of hard decisions before and during free agency this year. A small army of their free agents are hitting the open market, and they will need to decide which players should be retained and which players have concluded their service in Atlanta. With any luck, the Falcons won’t leave us hanging and will make many of those decisions in the relatively near future.
Jack Crawford is one of those players. Crawford had a forgettable season in 2019, grading out as a below average pass rusher and an absolute liability as a run defender. I don’t think 2019 is a true indication of the type of player Crawford can be, though it did bear an eerie resemblance to his last 2 seasons with the Cowboys (2015-2016). He played much better in 2018, and his true ability is probably somewhere in the middle.
Crawford is the wrong side of 30 (he’ll turn 32 shortly after next season starts) and there’s no way to know whether he can get back to where he was in 2018. The potential return on investment may just not be there. (Crawford had a base salary of $2.55 million in 2019 and it figures that he’d want a similar amount in 2020 and beyond.)
Here’s a helpful illustration of just how bad Crawford was in 2019. Crawford had 14 total pressures in 2019 over 262 pass rushing snaps. (1 sack, 3 quarterback hits, 10 hurries.) That’s ... not great. For comparison, Aaron Donald led the league with 80, Grady Jarrett led the Falcons with 46. Crawford’s 14 ranks ... 76th.
The unfortunate reality is that given his potentially declining skillset and age, Crawford is likely to be replaceable via the draft. To his credit, Crawford has served as a valuable rotational player. But teams move on from guys like him all the time. And that appears to be the Falcons’ best option here.