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The Falcons are done flirting with Vic Beasley’s frustrating potential

By announcing that they’re moving on from Vic Beasley, the Falcons formally give up the ghost.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Analyzing Vic Beasley is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the dark. You know the solution exists in there somewhere, but after eons of attempting to get everything in its proper order you end up tossing the thing out of the nearest window.

With the Falcons’ formal — and frankly, odd — announcement that they will not pursue Beasley in free agency, it’s clear that five years was the final breaking point. The Rubik’s Cube is in a parking lot somewhere.

Vic Beasley remains an enigmatic combination of speed and pure athleticism, and because the Falcons have been unable to fully unlock that potential during his tenure in red-and-black he will be another team’s puzzle to solve next season.

Maybe it was missing pieces right out of the box.

There were pressing questions about Vic Beasley’s ability to translate his pass rushing production at Clemson to the professional level prior to the 2015 NFL Combine. Questions about his build, questions about his ability to convert speed to power — important clues along the path to understanding The Riddle of Vic Beasley. He overshadowed those concerns by absolutely dominating the Combine and vaulting himself into top-10 pick territory.

Newly-minted head coach Dan Quinn made his first real mark on the franchise when he selected Beasley eighth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, adding a promising presence on the edge to begin his defensive rebuild of the Atlanta Falcons.

From that point forward we’ve been teetering on the edge of madness.

Vic Beasley’s rookie season was peppered with the plays that made you feel like he was the right pick at the right time for the Falcons, but the paltry four sacks he cobbled together did little to inspire confidence that he was to be a cornerstone on Atlanta’s defensive front. The bust label came swift and unrelenting, trailing him like a bad omen after his rookie year.

Until the following season.

Like his Combine performance, Vic Beasley silenced critics by putting together a year that the Falcons hadn’t seen since they walked away from John Abraham. 2016 was Beasley’s official NFL coming-out-party, leading the league with 15.5 sacks to go along with 16 quarterback hits and six forced fumbles. He would finish third in voting for Defensive Player of the Year, and seemingly cement himself as a critical cog on Atlanta’s defense for the foreseeable future.

And then the revert to the mean, or perhaps an illumination of the player who operates cloaked in smoke and mirrors.

His next two seasons were unequivocal failures. Beasley would go missing for stretches at a time, rarely registering an impact play — or any play, really. He became milk carton fodder, a disappearing defensive end. From 2017 to 2018 Vic Beasley would only tally 10 sacks, making it highly likely that Atlanta would cut bait rather than shell out the $12.8 million owed for his fifth-year option.

Like most mind-benders, common sense is frequently lost amid the confusion.

The Falcons pushed their chips to the middle of the table for 2019, banking that Dan Quinn as new defensive coordinator finally possessed the proper cipher to decode Vic Beasley. By the bye week Quinn had relinquished his play-calling duties, and Vic Beasley was again plodding along on one of those seasons that we’ve unfortunately come to expect.

He enjoyed a relatively productive second half, but Beasley’s late bit of magic was not enough for Atlanta to even entertain the idea of bringing him back into the fold next year. 2016 was the apex of Vic Beasley, and the chasm between his floor and ceiling have the Falcons firmly in the market for a new architect at defensive end in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Maybe to silence any free agency narrative before it even materialized, the Falcons went public with their plans to move on from Vic Beasley, the infuriatingly athletic defender who just can’t seem to seize the moment.

To attempt to understand Vic Beasley you may be better suited picking up a copy of The Da Vinci Code and a cryptex rather than studying game film. His worlds of natural talent seem locked away in an internal safe, and it might just take the right person with the right combination to turn his abilities into on-field performance. But the Falcons have laid plain that they’re through with the mystery of Vic Beasley, and unlocking his potential is now somebody else’s problem to solve.