The 2022 free agency period will be the most crucial period for the Terry Fontenot–Arthur Smith era. The 2021 season was an evaluation tool for the front office. A lot of Atlanta Falcons players failed. Whether that was Deion Jones showing minimal effort or Steven Means failing to set an edge. There was no doubt that this year was nothing more than an audition for the Falcons brass. One player that did not fail was Foyesade Oluokun. He took this chance and rode it to a league-high 192 tackles. He also ended the season with three interceptions, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two sacks. On the other hand, PFF also has him graded at an abysmal 45.3 overall grade. So, that begs the question: Do the Atlanta Falcons re-sign Foyesade Oluokun? This is one of the better questions that Atlanta will have this off-season, and it deserves a closer look.
Will the Atlanta Falcons Re-Sign Foyesade Oluokun?
Cons to re-signing Foyesade Oluokun
All season, the Falcons were looking for a spark plug on defense. There was one in the secondary with breakout star A.J. Terrell. Then, there was one on the defensive line with Grady Jarrett. However, in the middle of the defense, it just seemed shaky. That may be due, in part, to Foyesade’s running mate Deion Jones’ lackluster effort. But overall, it just did not seem like a solid unit, like fans had hoped for before the season. Oluokun’s best overall grade from PFF was in coverage, with a 52.8. Remember, that is out of 100. For PFF, that is in the D, D+ range.
And then there is the fact that the Atlanta Falcons are in literal salary cap hell. As of this moment, the Falcons are $6 million over the cap. Speaking of over the cap, OverTheCap.com has Foyesade valued at $8 million per year for his contract. Not necessarily a bad number. Unless you are a team that is looking to cut costs in any way possible. Atlanta fans may love Oluokun, but other fanbases and teams already have him on their radar. And these teams have a much better shot at giving Oluokun the money he may have earned himself this past season. It’s a matter of if he’s worth it to the Falcons brass. And it will be tough to say yes when there are so many other needs to fill all around the team.
Pros to re-signing Foyesade Oluokun
Sure, Deion Jones had a lackluster year, but he was playing a new position. In a difficult scheme under Dean Pees. But that’s a conversation for another day. Let’s instead start with the fact that Oluokun had the seventh-most tackles in a season by any linebacker, ever. His 192 are the most that the league has seen since Jessie Tuggle in 1992. (Also, in 1990, 1991, and 1994. God, Jessie Tuggle was so good).
His intelligence was shining bright throughout the season as he took on the role of MIKE linebacker. When a defense is as unpredictable and ever-changing as a Dean Pees defense is, there has to be a rock in the middle to lead it. Foyesade Oluokun is that rock.
There are not many units that the Falcons can say that they can live without upgrading this off-season. With Mykal Walker, Deion Jones (hopefully, much improved), and Foyesade Oluokun, the inside linebacker position may be one.
OLUOKUN SAYS GAME OVER.
— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) December 27, 2021
While PFF is usually not the measuring stick, Oluokun indeed missed some plays this season that we would have needed him to make. But, then again, who hasn’t? Nobody’s perfect. Sure, Foyesade has plenty to work on and his cap number will not be one that the Atlanta Falcons will want to spend. Especially with so many other pressing needs at premier positions. But there is this feeling that if Foyesade walks away, he will have insane success with another defense. De’Vondre Campbell-like success. Most Falcons fans do not want to hear that, but it is true.
Final ruling? Bite the bullet, Terry. Yes, it will likely be for about three years and will cost about $25 million. But if the Falcons are looking to build this defense from the ashes, they need a stable ground. There is nothing more stable defensively than having your signal-caller locked in for years to come.
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