Watch: The Falcons Are Making a Big Mistake in Passing on Brian Poole
On Friday the Atlanta Falcons informed nickelback Brian Poole that he wouldn’t be tendered as a restricted free agent. The tender amount for 2019 is expected to be in the $2 million range. Unlike their other moves this offseason, this is one player the Falcons are going to regret letting get away.
The issue isn’t about not wanting him back, they do. The issue is that the Falcons want him back at a bargain price. What they’re missing is the tender amount is not a bad price for what has become an important cog in every defense in the NFL.
Nickelbacks are no longer part of sub-packages on defense. The position requires above average play recognition abilities and speed. There’s no sideline to help a nickel with coverage. He must recognize sets consisting of three receivers, two tight ends or running backs lining up in the slot. He must cover across the middle and if he gets beat, there’s no catching up. He also has responsibilities on running plays and blitzes.
In 2018, Poole intercepted three passes, recovered three fumbles and registered three sacks. He was credited with 74 combined tackles, fourth on the team, with four for loss and five quarterback hits. That’s a ton of production out of a 26-year old who has only missed one game in his three-season career.
Currently, the plan is to have Damontae Kazee slide from free safety to the nickelback position. Kazee tied Kyle Fuller of the Chicago Bears and Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins for most interceptions in the NFL last season with seven. The questionable part of the 2019 plan though is counting on Ricardo Allen, who’s coming back from an Achille’s tear, and Keanu Neal, who’s returning from an ACL injury, to be back at full strength. They’ll also need Isaiah Oliver to step in as a starter at cornerback opposite Desmond Trufant.
That’s asking the Falcons to hit on 16 three times at the blackjack table and win each hand. A player with Poole’s talents won’t have to take a bargain contract just to be on a roster next season. With him, the Falcons were sitting on 21 and threw in the hand.