Falcons Connected with Former Pro Bowl Edge Rusher

The Atlanta Falcons still have a chance to add pass-rush help before training camp starts at the end of the month.
The Atlanta Falcons have done a lot of business with former Chicago Bears. Yannick Ngakoue could be a fit.
The Atlanta Falcons have done a lot of business with former Chicago Bears. Yannick Ngakoue could be a fit. / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Falcons 2024 draft class looks to play the long game. From Michael Penix Jr. to four defensive linemen selected, the Falcons added depth and potential rather than immediate starters in 2024.

Edge rusher Bralen Trice from the Washington Huskies may have the clearest pathway to a starting role with only Arnold Ebiketie and Lorenzo Carter in front of him. But there is still a lack of a proven pass rusher from the outside as the Falcons wait for Ebiketie to take the next step in 2024.

Free agent Yannick Ngakoue fits the bill. Heading into the 2023 season, Ngakoue was one of just-five players to record at least eight sacks in his first seven seasons.

The other four players look like candidates for a Mt. Rushmore of rush artists: Reggie WhiteAaron DonaldDerrick Thomas, and DeMarcus Ware.

White and Thomas are in Pro Football's Hall of Fame. Ware retired after the 2016 season with nine Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pro selections to his name. Donald is considered the best defensive player of his generation.

Ngakoue hasn't been able to find steady work the last three seasons, because he's a bit of a one-trick pony as a poor-run defender. However, that trick of getting to the quarterback, is something the Falcons still need. Bleacher Report (B/R) recently connected Ngakoue to the Falcons as a bargain-bin free agent who might be worth a cheap, non-guaranteed contract.

"Ngakoue's injury (broken ankle Week 13) is probably the biggest reason why he should be available on a budget now," wrote Kristopher Knox on B/R. "A workout video that Ngakoue posted to social media in May suggests he's now healthy, but the 29-year-old is still coming off a down season.
In 13 games with Chicago last season, Ngakoue recorded a career-low four sacks and 11 quarterback pressures.

"The Falcons have long been searching for edge help for years and lost top 2023 sack-producers Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree in free agency."

Free agent James Smith-Williams is currently the backup to Ebiketie. He had 22 tackles and a sack for Washington last season. He has seven sacks in a four-year career. Trice is the backup to Carter, and frankly, Carter is best served as a third edge, not a starter. Former third-round pick DeAngelo Malone will be lucky to see the field in 2024 after playing two defensive snaps in 2023.

Ngakoue signed a one-year, $10-million guaranteed deal with the Bears last season. He won't get that in 2024. He'd have an opportunity to earn a vital role with the Falcons if they decided to give him a shot, again on a much-cheaper deal.

Bud Dupree signed a one-year, $3-million deal with the Falcons last year before doubling his money in free agency after a productive season with the Falcons. Would the Falcons and Ngakoue be willing to do something similar?

It's certainly a low-risk, high reward proposition for the Falcons, with almost nothing to lose if Ngakoue took the fourth-edge spot in training camp.


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Scott Kennedy

SCOTT KENNEDY