The Falcons had what looked like an up and coming defense back in 2017. The mostly young group improved throughout the season, offsetting the drop in offensive efficiency from the loss of Kyle Shanahan. Things were looking up.
Then things went awry thanks to injuries, coaching, and frequently overlooked, the loss of Dontari Poe. The Falcons paid Poe $8 million for a one-year rental, with both sides knowing they would not be able to afford to sign him to a long-term deal. Defensive tackles like Poe do not show up on the stat sheet but his impact was much larger than his 2.5 sacks.
With Dan Quinn in yet another must-win season, could he bring back Poe to help solidify the defense? Per Jourdan Rodrigue and Joseph Person of The Athletic, Poe will not return to the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are also expected to decline nose tackle Dontari Poe’s $9.8 million option for 2020, according to sources. Poe played well last season, finishing with his highest sack total (four) since 2014 when he was a Pro Bowler with the Chiefs. But he’s coming off surgery for a torn quadriceps and will turn 30 in August.
Despite his solid play in 2019, Poe’s age suggests he should be much cheaper than his 2017 deal. Defensive tackles are scarce in free agency, however, Poe should not reach his three-year, $28 million deal he signed in 2018.
The Falcons should be considering any and every cheap defensive line addition. Poe’s history with the Falcons makes a lot of sense. The veteran should also make things easier on an expected rookie defensive end replacing Vic Beasley.
The only problem for the Falcons is affording even a team-friendly deal. The Falcons have only $4.5 million in cap space according to Spotrac, not enough to even sign the rookie class. The expectation is they hope for a new CBA to bring back post-June 1st cuts and are simply holding off on making moves until that time. Either way, they will need to do something to afford even a small deal for Poe or any other free agent.