Is Vic Beasley Jr. on his way out of Atlanta?
The NFL trade deadline has passed and the Falcons in typical fashion under Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff stood pat. One player in particular that could have been traded but was retained was Falcons DE (defensive end) Vic Beasley.
Beasley is in his fourth season as a Falcon, and has a 1st team All-Pro from his breakout 15.5 sack 2016 campaign on his resume. Before the season began, the Falcons exercised Beasley’s fifth-year option that will pay him 12.8 million in 2019, and becomes guaranteed the 1st day of the 2019 league year and/or if he gets injured. Beasley has had an up and down career in Atlanta,one that has led to many fans calling for him to be cut from the team after this season so the team can use his cap savings elsewhere.
That said, here’s the facts about Beasley and the Falcons, the team now has zero value in Beasley to trade him after the season because as I mentioned above his salary becomes guaranteed the first day of the league year. Since the team exercised his fifth-year option, they will receive no compensatory picks for him so if they cut him, the team get’s zero compensation in return.
Wait what? That’s correct, the teams only avenue to move on from Beasley and get anything in return was to trade him yesterday before the trade deadline, because no team is going to trade for an inconsistent pass rusher with a 12.8 million price tag. Now that we got that understanding, what does it mean? To me, it means the team is committed to Beasley long term.
So what is the best way to feature Beasley, especially now that the Falcons have signed Bruce Irvin?
In the 2015 Draft, the Falcons drafted Beasley because they needed a polished pass rusher to pair with the giant run stuffers that littered the DL (defensive line). Beasley is an athletic freak, with an incredible first step. In 2015 Beasley played the LEO (open end DE) role on the defense and finished the season with 4 sacks, 5 hits, 33 hurries according to ProFootball Focus.
In 2016 he made the transition to SAM (strongside linebacker) where he was required to drop into coverage more often, mainly because the team had other depth pieces at DE with Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, Brooks Reed, and Dwight Freeney all taking snaps, while the team was thin at LB (linebacker). That same season, we saw Beasley make plays in coverage that seems so smooth and effortless. His play against 49ers where he covered a TE (tight end) was a thing of beauty, as was he play on Patriots TE Martellus Bennett in the end zone to prevent a TD in overtime of the Super Bowl.
When’s he was allowed to cover Beasley did a pretty decent job. Let’s also remember Beasley doesn’t practice dropping into coverage very much so one has to ask the question, if he spent more time doing it how good could he become?
A lot of fans will always ask the question, why drop a pass rusher into coverage? Well at this point we know what Beasley is as a pass rush, and is asking him to move back SAM to take advantage of his natural athleticism a bad thing? I don’t believe so. One guy that I like to compare Beasley to is Vikings LB Anthony Barr. Both players were built as athletic freaks that had the ability to be double digit sack guys.
Here is an example where Beasley’s potential fit as a SAM is examined.
Below is a link where I did a GIF review on Beasley’s potential fit as a SAM.
In Atlanta, Beasley has really just rushed the passer, while Barr plays more in coverage.
The Vikings use Barr as a blitzer and from time to time on edge, but they have DE’s so they don’t need him to be their pass rush. Atlanta hasn’t developed that level of depth, but what if Beasley was used just like Barr but still rushed the passer on obvious passing downs or a 5th blitzer?
We know Beasley can hold his own in coverage, but can you image Beasley as a 5th blitzer or showing blitz only to drop into an underneath zone? Beasley has a crazy first step so if he was allowed to blitz, he would be on the QB (quarterback) in a hurry, especially since a RB (running back) or TE would be blocking him most of the time. The issue to me is that we all want that 2016 Beasley to come back but that’s gone forever and we must accept it.
That doesn’t mean Beasley doesn’t have value to this team, he just shouldn’t be its first or second pass rushing option at DE, maybe the third or fourth option on passing downs, where he would be hungrier to go get the QB when allowed to after dropping in coverage so much. With Irvin on the roster now, it pretty confirms this.
This plan also allows LB De’Vondre Campbell to move back in at WILL (weakside linebacker) where he had arguably his best season in 2017. Not only would these moves, help maximize Beasley but would give the team crazy depth at LB (Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Vic Beasley, Foyesade Oluokun, and Duke Riley), all while allowing Beasley to be freer to make plays in space.
I know fans are disappointed in Beasley but all signs point to him being on this team for at least a few more years. Let’s get the most out of his athleticism and finally put him back at SAM where he can potentially become a bigger part of this defense. He’ll still get the chance to rush the passer but it won’t be as the primary option, which at this point isn’t a bad thing.