There are very few Falcons fans who were clamoring for Vic Beasley to be brought back after his 2019 season. The former first round pick was seen as a bust by most fans, but his 8 sacks led the team. At just 3.5 sacks on the year, all eyes now turn towards Takk McKinley - another first round pass rusher who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.
Let me be clear up front: I think Takk is a better pass rusher than Vic and his overall numbers show this as well. He’s also shown a consistently high motor and that he has more than one move as a pass rusher. His injuries since arriving in Atlanta may have held him back, but there’s no denying that he is not what fans were hoping for when he was drafted.
As it stands right now, the Falcons haven’t exercised his fifth year option which means he will probably be a free agent in 2021 unless something changes between now and September. The team could also be waiting to see what happens in the NFL draft after having already landed Dante Fowler in free agency.
Here are some of the potential outcomes for McKinley and the team.
Exercise that 5th year option and hope he’s not Vic 2.0
Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff were noncommittal about Takk and his fifth year option when asked a few months ago. In fact, Dan Quinn intimated initially that it wouldn’t be picked up but he did back off of that statement later. The problem is the Falcons know that the fifth year option for Vic Beasley rubbed fans the wrong way. Yet, Takk is a different player who still has some fan support. He’s still only 24 years old and he has shown flashes of brilliance (Marcus Mariota is still having nightmares about Takk).
The new CBA does fully guarantee the fifth year now, and not just for injury. That could be a major hold-up, but it’s still going to be cheaper than using the franchise tag. If the team still believes he can turn into an 8-10 sack per year kind of player, exercising that option makes a ton of sense. Plus, signing Dante Fowler does not fix the pass rush alone. And anyone we draft this year may need a couple of years to develop. Keeping Takk around an extra year to see what he can do makes some sense.
Make him prove it in 2020
This feels like where the team is at right now. If they use that first round draft pick on someone like K’Lavon Chaisson, it seems like a near certainty that Takk will be on notice that this is his year to prove he can be “that guy.” If McKinley can deliver in a contract year, the team may opt to extend him during the season or simply pick up the compensatory pick if he heads out the door. They can always fall back on the franchise tag, but that’s particularly expensive for pass rushers and the team will likely be tight against the cap in 2021 yet again.
Consider the one unlikely, but if Dante Fowler works out and they can land a good pass rusher in the draft, one has to think the team might consider trading Takk for more draft capital. Right now, the team looks like they’re heading for another year of limited cap space in 2021, so piling up draft picks may be the only way to infuse some talent into this aging roster. Pass rushers are still highly valued in this league and if the team doesn’t want to pay him, getting a draft pick for McKinley may be the best possible outcome.
What are your thoughts on McKinley? Should the team commit to him, make him prove himself or should they start thinking about a replacement?