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Falcons knew Vic Beasley wanted to be pastor, not pass rusher, when picking up 2019 option

We hope Beasley gets to follow his dream, but this raises familiar questions about the Falcons and their decision-making.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Vic Beasley is no longer a Falcon, but he’s not quite a Titan just yet either. The five-year Atlanta pass rusher and former heralded first-round pick signed a one-year deal with Tennessee in the offseason, but he reported late and his future with that team now seems a little cloudy.

Beasley remains an enigma, in other words. His talent and athleticism have never really been in question but his pass rushing production, while placing him depressingly high on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard for sacks, has been wildly inconsistent. That’s led many fans in Atlanta to wonder aloud whether he has the passion to be great, or at the more extreme end, whether he really wants to play football at all.

We don’t know the answer to those idle questions because we don’t know what Beasley is thinking. We do know that the evidence that he has priorities and aspirations other than football keeps piling up.

Earlier today, SI’s Peter King provided more of that evidence on the radio.

If true, Beasley’s priorities click into place a bit more. Even last offseason when Dan Quinn vowed to work with him one-on-one, only for Beasley to skip optional practices, he seemed to be fully engaged in his community. There were indications that was the case this offseason, too, even as he reported late with the Titans. I have no idea if Beasley “loves football” or whatever, but I think it’s fair to suggest it is not the No. 1 thing in his life. That puts him somewhat at odds with his coaches who tend to be intense men living in their offices and eating big bowls of footballs for 11 months a year, but it isn’t necessarily keeping him from becoming great.

The desire question will follow him no matter how long his career lasts now, though, because of offseason decisions like these and the actual in-season production. Beasley has at least a half sack in only 29 of his 78 career games, making him extremely feast or famine, and of course nearly half of his career sack total came in that magical, unsustainable 2016 season. A year ago, he wound up with 8 sacks and landed that one-year deal from the Titans as a result, but it took 5 sacks in the final 8 games to get him there, as he had just 3 in the first 8 games and looked like he would entirely waste a pivotal year where he was playing under a pricey fifth-year option. You can point to tough matchups or a lack of consistency or a lack of desire, if you wish, but any way you slice it Beasley’s talent suggested he would do much more in Atlanta than he did.

If this is true, of course, it also raises some familiar questions about the team’s decision-making. The fifth-year option was widely seen as a mistake in the Falcons fanbase, but the more optimistic among us clung to the idea that Beasley would be hyper-motivated in a contract year and might be key to a struggling pass rush in a resurgent year for the defense. That was never likely, per se, but it’s not the job of fans to rationally consider the probability that outcome. It is the front office’s job, however, and the money they gave to Beasley could’ve gone to other players who might’ve made more of a difference for a 7-9 team that let him walk this offseason regardless, taking the time to make the unusual move of releasing a statement saying they would not attempt to re-sign him. There’s no question the Falcons got burned, but given everything we knew heading into last year—and given that the team clearly knew more than us—they put their hands on the stove and can’t really claim to be surprised.

Beasley, meanwhile, is still on the non-football injury list, with a report yesterday indicating he’s still working on a side field at Titans practices after missing 13 days of full-team practices. There’s a real danger that the Falcons won’t receive a projected compensatory pick if Tennessee ends up dumping Beasley, as they might mull doing, but the likelier outcome is that Beasley rounds into shape, finishes out his contract with the Titans, and then has another tough offseason decision to make about whether he’s going to keep moving forward with football or follow a path he seems much more passionate about.

Either way, we really do wish Beasley well, and we hope the Falcons both learned from their fifth-year option fiasco and get their compensatory pick for 2021.