The Falcons Should Not Let Grady Jarrett Walk

Grady Jarrett is the best interior defensive lineman available on the market, but it's likely the Falcons find a way to keep him.
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Throughout the next several weeks, we’ll be assessing the market on some of the best free agents set to come available on March 14. Beyond scheme fit, these decisions will be impacted by available finances, team thoughts on current draft prospects and perception of value vs. actual value. We’ll try and parse through those ideas here.

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Player: Grady Jarrett 
Age: 25 (turning 26 on April 28)
Position: Defensive tackle 
2018 Salary: $1,968,694 
2018 Statistics: 52 total tackles, 16 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss, six sacks

Why he’s a top-tier free agent: Grady Jarrett had just two fewer quarterback hits from the defensive tackle position than Khalil Mack did in Chicago this year, playing in an Atlanta defense that specifically accentuated his pass rushing abilities. He’s the best interior defensive lineman in free agency and he’s hit the market at the perfect time. Aaron Donald has helped mainstream the hype around interior pass rushing, and while Jarrett is not as prolific, he’s the best player available who can create that kind of schematic noise. I love watching Jarrett because he’s almost as scary with a full head of steam coming around the edge. He can fight hand-to-hand with the best of them and gobble up a pair of defenders with regularity. Seattle’s defensive principles, and their offshoots in Atlanta and elsewhere, have become so popularized that Jarrett would fit quite nicely in more than a few places. I thought our Andy Benoit summed it up fairly well in his top 100 free agents list (of which Jarrett cracked the top five): He’s quick off the snap, mechanically savvy and tenacious in how he finishes plays.

What more do you need? 

Risks involved: Cost. It’s a drawback I’ve used a few times before in this series, but when you get someone as clean and productive as Jarrett, it’s hard to parse the minutiae for minor flaws that teams would gladly accept. Should the Falcons not franchise him (they’d be insane not to, especially if Over The Cap’s franchise tag projection—$15 million—is close), he’s going to ascend in a market that is prioritizing his position. Based on a few reports out of the area, he seems to know it, too. After becoming a regular starter in 2016, Jarrett hasn’t played in fewer than 14 games a season.

Market prospects: I can’t imagine the Falcons letting him walk. GM Thomas Dimitroff already said they’d like to have him for many years to come. He’ll be central to their defensive success in 2019, especially with more skilled finesse players behind him. If they were crazy enough to let him go, anyone with $17 million a season burning a hole in their pocket could make a play. 

Potential destinations: Chargers, Colts, Seahawks

Contract comps:

Aaron Donald, Rams: Six years, $135 million / $22.5 million APY / $86,892,000 total guarantees

Fletcher Cox, Eagles: Six years, $102.6 million / $17.1 million APY / $63.299 million total guarantees

Marcell Dareus, Jaguars: Six years, $96.574 million / $16.095 million APY / $60 million, total guarantees

Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers: Six years $95.2 million / $15.886 million APY / $51.5 million, total guarantees.

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