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Falcons cut DE Takk McKinley

The veteran pass rusher was likely in his final year in Atlanta, but after the team decided not to trade him this is a bit of a stunner.

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The Falcons elected not to move defensive end Takk McKinley at the trade deadline, a move that was a little surprising given that he clearly had some value as a young, capable pass rusher, albeit one who was often injured. After the team elected not to make a trade, Takk took to Twitter to blast the team in a tweet where he implied they turned down a 2nd rounder for him in 2019 (refuted by the team later in remarks to the AJC’s Jason Butt) and 5th and 6th rounders for him in 2020, ending with him colorfully calling the teams clowns with a row of emojis.

The team fined Takk and announced he wouldn’t be playing in Week 9, but apparently something else happened behind the scenes or the Falcons simply decided they didn’t want him playing for them any longer. They’ve cut the player they traded up for in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Takk will finish his career in Atlanta with 17.5 sacks, 45 quarterback hits, and over 50 pressures in 49 games over roughly three-and-a-half seasons. He did not have the big splash season Vic Beasley managed, but he was quietly the more effective player throughout his tenure as a pass rusher and run defender, even so.

This was supposed to a big year for Takk, who started off the season with a sack in the first game and was playing well before injuries started stacking up and costing him games. There has long been conjecture that Takk wasn’t happy in Atlanta but few concrete signs until this season, when that one tweet blew up the whole thing by making it clear that Takk has been angling to get out of town for at least two seasons. He’ll ultimately get his wish, but not in the way I think any of us imagined, and we’ll see what team scoops him up for the stretch run to help out their pass rush, assuming he’s healthy enough to play.

The Falcons, meanwhile, suffer another humiliation in a year full of them. The team ostensibly held on to Takk to keep their compensatory draft selection for him—they never said this outright, but it is the most reasonable explanation—and now they’ve released him in exchange for absolutely nothing. The team has a solid rotation along the defensive line and will get on just fine in what’s still likely to be a lost year, but Takk was still a player capable of helping when he was healthy, which makes you wonder what exactly caused the team to finally snap and cut him outright. It’s probably fair to say that Takk was still agitating behind the scenes, given his not-so-subtle Instagram stories, and they may well have decided that that continued attitude and a season full of injuries made him someone not worth having around any longer.

The failure to trade Takk hurts the new regime’s first year when they could have added another draft pick in what is expected to be, at least, a “refreshed” roster. Things obviously went south after the trade deadline, which started Takk’s misguided Twitter tirade. Luckily, the Falcons are still expected to give their new general manager three compensatory picks: one 5th and two 6th round picks. Another late-round pick would have been great, however, getting a 6th-round selection in exchange for your former 1st-round pick isn’t turning Takk’s selection into a good move.

There’s the open question of whether teams offered much of consequence for him, but we’re unlikely to learn anytime soon whether Takk’s self-reported 5th and 6th round picks were real or not. Considering the Falcons drafted both Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley in the first round, were unable to recoup draft compensation for either, and wound up either not re-signing or cutting both, a seemingly endless disaster at defensive end now has a brand new chapter.

At the moment, things will proceed more or less like they have been without Takk, with a rotation of veteran players that includes Dante Fowler Jr., Steven Means, Allen Bailey, Charles Harris, and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. Only Fowler and Bailey are under contract next year, and it’s quite possible neither one will be kept around. I said earlier this year after Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn were fired that the failure to find high-end, consistent options at defensive end would go down as perhaps the biggest personnel failure of the current era, and the next staff will have to reckon with that failing in a big way next season.

We still wish Takk well, because he’s evidently talented and clearly both wanted and needed a fresh start elsewhere, but it goes without saying that we also wish it never came to this. The Falcons will keep moving with their veteran group in the here and now at defensive end, with a complete rebuild at the position looming in the 2021 offseason.