Entering the offseason, Grady Jarrett's future with the Atlanta Falcons was unclear. He had a down season statistically, posting the fewest number of sacks (1.0) and tackles-for-loss (3.0) of his career, though he often faced double teams and remained an influential presence on the interior.
Nobody understands Jarrett's down-to-down impact quite like Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Jarrett has been Atlanta's best and most consistent defensive lineman for the past several years and is a big part of what Pees wants to do with the Falcons' defense moving forward.
"There wasn't anybody happier on this planet than me when he signed. I really hope that he has the opportunity to be a Falcon forever," Pees said. "Being in Baltimore where Ray Lewis was the face of the franchise on defense, I think Grady is that to us. He's the perfect pro.
"He's everything you ask for as a coach in a player. The way he practices, the way he plays, everything. Having a guy like that with not only his talent but the type of man that he is, it's so important to us and our unit. I couldn't be happier that he got that thing extended."
Not only is Jarrett a difference-maker on the field, but he also offers invaluable locker room leadership. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, a long-time supporter of Jarrett, said as much on Thursday.
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"What I appreciate about Grady, he's the same guy every day," Smith said. "He comes in here – so it's those habits that you hope people try to pick his brain on. 'Alright, Grady, how did you have this success? Why are you still playing at a high level? What are you doing?' I think it naturally, you'd be very smart as a young guy to watch what he does and what Jake [Matthews] does."
The Falcons have added several young players on the defensive side of the ball over the past two drafts, including linemen Ta'Quon Graham and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, and pass rushers Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. Jarrett provides a great example for the new faces to look towards when trying to learn how to be a professional.
For Jarrett, the 2022 season is all about earning respect, and he's excited about the group he gets to play with. "I've always had that chip on my shoulder," Jarrett said. "There are a lot of good players around here who are hungry.
"They want to earn that respect. Coach wants respect as a coach. Terry [Fontenot] wants respect as a GM. You can't beat that. You can't coach that. It's just a feel, and I think everybody feels it. I'm excited to be part of a group like that."