When Jurrell Casey was released by the Broncos earlier today, you immediately heard Falcons fans everywhere either clamoring for him or asking if the Falcons might go out and get him. It’s not difficult to understand why.
In his career, Casey has piled up 51 sacks and 85 tackles for a loss, consistently providing quality run defense and sometimes providing phenomenal pass rushing skills. He’s made 5 Pro Bowls and as recently as 2019, he had 44 pressures in a single year, or 14 more than Grady Jarrett (who led the team) had in 2020. He was a fixture on the Titans defensive line for almost a decade before a trade took him to Denver, and that’s where things went sideways for Casey. A player who had never played in fewer than 14 games in his entire career played just three for Denver, and the Broncos didn’t seem to want to stick around and figure out whether he’d bounce back.
Atlanta doesn’t have to take on his existing contract, so their interest in figuring that out figures to be much higher. Casey is getting older and now has a major injury to be concerned about, but he’s consistently been a good-to-great player capable of playing defensive end and defensive tackle depending on the front. Critically, he also played in Tennessee when Dean Pees was the defensive coordinator and put up 12 sacks over those two years, so he’s very familiar to both Pees and new head coach Arthur Smith.
Will the Falcons sign him, then? It’s fair to suggest we still don’t have a good read on what Atlanta’s plans are for this offseason, but Casey’s strong ties to Pees, his ability to play end in bulkier fronts, and his obvious talent have to make him intriguing. I said the other day that the Falcons don’t have a strong need for another defensive tackle, but if they’re committed to putting the most talented team on the field, a healthy Casey should probably be part of it. His age—he’ll be 32 this season—is the thing likeliest to give the Falcons pause.
This one’s likely to come down to cost and the team’s perceived needs along their defensive line, but it’d be very surprising if they didn’t at least explore a short-term deal with Casey. If he’s healthy in 2021 and they make the move, he’ll provide the Falcons with a lot of help as they try to get a notoriously inconsistent defense back on track.