With 110 games under his belt in Atlanta, Grady Jarrett is now the second-longest tenured active Falcon, behind Jake Matthews. He’s one of just two stars on the defense—the other being A.J. Terrell—and a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line, a locker room leader, and someone who has poured time and energy into the city of Atlanta. Jarrett is, in short, one of the great Falcons of the era and one of the better defensive linemen in team history.
All those plaudits don’t secure his place with the Falcons, however, just like they didn’t for Julio Jones or Matt Ryan. With the team speculation has turned to Jarrett’s future in Atlanta. His current deal is up after this season, and to this point we’ve heard nothing about the team extending him. Is this a sign that Jarrett could be on his way out of Atlanta, too, or two sides working on an extension in silence that’s customary for both parties?
There are three options for the Falcons and Jarrett.
Atlanta shed Julio, Ryan, and Josh Harris the past couple of seasons, and with no real pretense of staying hyper-competitive left, the Falcons may turn to Jarrett and Deion Jones (the subject of another article) next. They’d clear space this year to take a swing on some multi-year deals and rebuild the pretense of being competitive by doing so, but more importantly, they could acquire yet more draft capital.
What would Jarrett fetch in a trade? SportsTalkATL looked at that a while back and made the reasonable case that short of a first or a couple of second round picks the Falcons shouldn’t consider it, but I think they’d struggle to get back a first for Jarrett even though his value is evident to teams across the league. A second rounder in the right landing spot, especially for a team willing to extend him when he gets there, would make a ton of sense. Atlanta doesn’t have any hard deadlines to move him at the moment and could entertain offers throughout the summer if they want to, giving them time to build a market for his services.
Age—he’s almost 30—and the lack of premium production as a pass rusher the past couple of years might make a second rounder unrealistic, but again, I think Jarrett is viewed as one of the best defensive tackles in football. I don’t think you’d see the Falcons moving him for much less unless they simply do not want to give him a new deal.
Jarrett gets a new home—hopefully in a place he’d like to land—and the Falcons get yet another premium pick to help them accelerate the rebuild. If Jarrett isn’t willing to re-up in Atlanta, this is the obvious solution. It’s better than letting him...
Play one year, leave in free agency
This is the disaster outcome, and I can’t see the Falcons getting here. You’d have Jarrett’s swan song year in 2022 for a team that may not be headed anywhere, and then he’d hit the open market, where he’d presumably have a ton of suitors.
In this scenario, you get one more year of Jarrett, which is good. You also probably let Jarrett walk for nothing heading into a season where everyone inside and outside of Flowery Branch will be expecting the Falcons to make major strides, which is bad. I don’t think Terry Fontenot and company have any interest in letting this play out unless there winds up being no alternative, which is hard for me to imagine.
My strong preference, if both sides can agree to it, is an extension that keeps Jarrett in Atlanta as one of the faces of the franchise. He can still play at a high level, this defense needs to hold on to its few quality players, and Atlanta’s about to have more than enough cap space to absorb a new deal for him. I absolutely believe that this team will be better off with Jarrett the next few years than without him, and if they finally surround him with better talent on the defensive line, he’ll have less yelling about double teams to do.
How much is he going to get? It’ll be a cut below Aaron Donald again, obviously, but we could be talking an annual average of $20 million to keep Jarrett in Atlanta. Yes, this will bite into the team’s windfall of 2023 cap space, but the Falcons should be trying to use some of that money on elite players. Jarrett is still one of those guys.
What will happen?
My gut feeling is that Jarrett stays. Dean Pees is as crusty as a fresh-baked baguette, but he was practically giddy talking about Jarrett back in December, a testament to the high esteem in which he holds the defensive tackle.
“I can’t say enough great things about the guy in every aspect of his life, from my standpoint – as a football player, being around him as a person, everything about him,” Pees said. “There’s nothing I can find negative about the guy. To me, he’s what all young players at the defensive line – all young players, period, on defense – that’s what I should aspire to be like, that guy. That’s a professional football player that takes his job serious on every aspect.”
Does that sound like a guy Pees is eager to get rid of? The Falcons are going to revamp their defense significantly through free agency and the draft—they’ve already added Teez Tabor, Dee Alford and Casey Hayward in the secondary, Lorenzo Carter at outside linebacker, and Anthony Rush on the defensive line—but Pees needs leaders and players he can count on. Jarrett fits the bill, and unless you believe he’s headed for a sudden dropoff, a 2-to-3 year extension would make a ton of sense for Atlanta.
The question becomes whether Jarrett’s camp is interested in staying and whether they can reach terms, and the silence on that front tells us we really have no idea what’s next. I’m hopeful Jarrett will still be here in 2022 and beyond, and that he’ll finally get to be a part of a great Falcons defense at some point down the line.