Falcons Linked with Former Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets Edge

Could the Atlanta Falcons pursue a former Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets starter?
Former New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson could be a late free agency addition for the Atlanta Falcons.
Former New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson could be a late free agency addition for the Atlanta Falcons. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons' long-standing pass rush question didn't receive any veteran help this offseason - or at least not yet.

The Falcons, who lost both of their co-sack leaders from last season in Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell, added three defensive tackles - Ruke Orhorhoro, Brandon Dorlus and Zion Logue - and edge rusher Bralen Trice in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But still, no proven solution. During OTAs and minicamp, Atlanta rolled with outside linebackers Arnold Ebiketie and Lorenzo Carter and defensive ends Zach Harrison, James Smith-Williams, Kentavius Street and Bradlee Anae on the perimeter.

Is another name coming?

The Falcons - along with the Baltimore Ravens - were named by Bleacher Report as a "logical landing spot" for free agent defensive end Carl Lawson.

"Lawson will turn 29 this month and he's had some injury issues in the past, but he was productive before getting stuck behind a deep rotation of pass-rushers in New York last season," Bleacher Report writes. "Multiple teams could use a veteran edge-rusher like Lawson to round out their group heading into the 2024 season."

The 6-2, 265-pound Lawson was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft and burst onto the scene with 8.5 sacks in 16 games as a rookie. He's yet to replicate that success, but he's remained a productive pass rusher.

Across 51 games with 14 starts, the Alpharetta, Ga., native ended his four-year Bengals tenure with 20 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and 83 quarterback hits. He missed all of 2021 after tearing his Achilles.

In the spring of 2022, the New York Jets gave Lawson a three-year, $45 million contract in free agency, helping him turn the page on a difficult end in Cincinnati.

Lawson, who turns 29 on June 29, enjoyed a productive 2022 season with the Jets, starting all 17 games and collecting seven sacks, nine tackles for loss, 24 quarterback hits and 46 total pressures.

Marred on New York's depth chart and limited early by a back injury, Lawson played in only six games in 2023 and failed to hit the quarterback in his 101 snaps. Still, there may be more in the tank.

"It's hard to believe that he's just suddenly not good enough to contribute as a rotational pass-rusher who has traditionally been strong against the run," said Bleacher Report.

The Jets voided Lawson's contract in February, sending him to the open market, where he's stayed ever since.

On paper, Atlanta still has uncertainty, yet Lawson is far from a sure thing at this stage in his career. For now, the Falcons' roster sits at 90, and Lawson sits awaiting an opportunity. Whether the two sides change their status together remains to be seen.


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Daniel Flick

DANIEL FLICK

Daniel Flick is an accredited NFL writer for Sports Illustrated's FanNation. Daniel has provided boots-on-ground coverage at the NFL Combine and from the Atlanta Falcons' headquarters, among other destinations, and contributed to the annual Lindy's Sports Magazine ahead of the 2023 offseason. Daniel is a co-host on the 404TheFalcon podcast and previously wrote for the Around the Block Network and Georgia Sports Hospitality Media.