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Should the Falcons prepare for life after Grady Jarrett?

The longtime defensive tackle might be beginning a holdout for a new deal.

Washington Football Team v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons might have to start preparing for a future without defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.

With Jarrett not showing up for the start of the team’s offseason program (per the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter), it brings into question once again what his future with the team is. Honestly, it also might speed up the timeline on the Falcons and Jarrett finding a solution that’s mutually beneficial for both parties.

After all, the long-needed rebuild is in full effect now with Matt Ryan’s departure, and Jarrett is the kind of high-priced, high-quality veteran who could be a missing piece for a contending team. As badly as the Falcons need players like Jarrett, the defensive tackle might not want to tether his future to a team that is, sans a shock, at the very least a year or two away from even considering being a factor in the NFC Championship hunt.

Barring a surprise, Jarrett is either going to return to the Falcons with a new contract, or he’s going to be moved before the 2022 season starts, maybe around next weekend’s draft action. He’d certainly be worth at least a second-round pick for a more complete team that would be more than happy to have Jarrett and could afford to sign him to a new deal.

There just doesn’t seem like a path right now where Jarrett shows up to offseason activities and plays out the 2022 season on his contract. Unless he for sure wants to remain a Falcon and is willing to wait out the season for a new deal to materialize (which, to be frank, doesn’t seem likely), we will probably know sooner than later what Jarrett’s future with the team will be. Either he’ll be a long-term Falcon, or a very, very short-term one.

If he’s traded here soon, the Falcons would free up about $16.5 million in 2022 cap space, which would help sign the 2022 draft class and potentially add a few affordable veterans to round out the roster post-draft. There would be a huge gap without Jarrett, obviously, but of all the times for the Falcons to have huge gaps, now’s not a bad one.

After all, Jarrett turns 29 next week, and his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. He’d be a high-demand free agent if the team let him walk, and the most they’d get in that scenario would probably be a third-round pick in return via the compensatory formula. Though, with the Falcons flush with cash next offseason and a probable major player in the 2023 free agency cycle, it’s not likely the Falcons will actually get that compensatory pick if Jarrett walks and they sign a high-profile player who counteracts with his potential comp return.

Now, there is certainly a path where the Falcons do re-sign Jarrett, and the door isn’t closed on that. They could also have Jarrett play out his 2022 deal and then franchise tag him in 2023, but that’s probably not a game Jarrett is going to want to play at this point in his career. On that path, you’re almost guaranteed to be looking at a summertime holdout.

Jarrett is entering a very pivotal moment on his career, a time where he can cash in on his second, and maybe his last, major contract as an elite defensive lineman. An injury during offseason workouts would be a huge blow to his negotiating power with the Falcons or another team, and he’s very likely not willing to risk that, even if the Falcons want to keep him through means of a franchise tag in 2023.

Contending teams with some open cap space like the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers could all bubble up in potential trade talks. It’s easy to see any of them being willing to part with a second or third-round pick, or maybe even a first-round pick in the best possible situation, to acquire an elite talent like Jarrett to help for a Super Bowl run.

In the end, it’ll come down to what the Falcons want to do, and more importantly, what Jarrett wants to do. If he really wants to stay in Atlanta and is willing to wait for better days, it may take a bit but he’ll come back to Flowery Branch with a new deal. If he’s wanting to move on and/or the Falcons are ready to go younger and cheaper at the position, the team would be prudent to make a deal sooner than later.

Jarrett has been a consummate Falcon, and he deserves the chance to go to a contending team sooner than later if he wants to. He also deserves to be properly compensated if he wants to stay a Falcon. The winds feel like they’re blowing for a breakup, but it’s really anyone’s guess.

Going into the 2023 offseason with Jarrett seeing his current deal expire is just not good for Atlanta, and going into the 2022 season with no new deal or no new team is just not good for Jarrett. Something’s got to give, and it might be giving pretty soon, depending on what the two sides want to do. As always, we’ll keep you posted.