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Falcons free agent profiles: DT Mike Pennel

The veteran added some girth to the defensive line and helped stabilize things late in the season. Will he be back?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons were a work in progress in 2021. The defense improved from tire fire to brush fire thanks to some moves along the defensive line. Notably, defensive coordinator Dean Pees moved some big name acquisitions out of the defensive line rotation. Former second-round pick Marlon Davidson, former fourth-round pick John Cominsky, and former Saint Tyeler Davison ended the season with inactives games mixed with more limited snaps. Players like Anthony Rush and Mike Pennel stepped up in their places.

Did Pennel do enough to return to Atlanta? Let’s take a closer look.

2021 stats

  • 10 games
  • 21 tackles
  • 2nd highest graded defensive lineman 3x via PFF
  • Big defensive linemen don’t put up a ton of awe-inspiring stats

The case for signing Pennel

Pennel signed to the practice squad in mid-September. He was promoted in early October and filled in as an impact reserve. For a team absolutely desperate for quality with its starters and depth, Pennel can become an important addition. At 6-foot-4 and 332-pounds, Pennel provides great size to drop in the middle and provide an impact in the run game. He played better on a snap-by-snap basis than Marlon Davidson and Tyeler Davison, providing a reasonable upgrade just based on the fact he wasn’t a defensive lineman drafted by Thomas Dimitroff. Additionally, he has been on veteran minimum deals since 2019.

The case against signing Pennel

The case against Pennel is pretty light. Pennel is turning 31 so he won’t be improving. More importantly, Pennel would struggle to make the roster on a lot of teams with better defensive lines. The Falcons need to drastically improve its line. Pennel is not really the key to do that.

The verdict: Re-sign Mike Pennel

This is an easy decision: bring back Pennel. He should be what the Falcons so frequently lack: a cheap, quality rotational interior lineman. Terry Fontenot can’t fix the defensive line this offseason, meaning he will need to bring in players who will not be at risk of making the Pro Bowl. Fontenot will need to sign players to allow him to draft the best player available. With few options considering this team’s cap situation, bringing back Pennel and spending money elsewhere would be a smart move for the Falcons.