Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was one of the best bargains in the NFL, but the four-year NFL veteran is about to see a massive pay raise. Initially selected in the fifth round back in 2015, Jarrett has established himself as one of the best all-around defensive tackles in the league. Nobody will confuse him with Aaron Donald, but Jarrett is probably the best defensive tackle on the market and will be paid appropriately.
2019 NFL Free Agency Profile: Grady Jarrett
Jarrett enters free agency on the heels of arguably the best season of his young career. Playing in 14 games, Jarrett set career highs in sacks (six) and quarterback hits (16) while recording 16 tackles. Jarrett’s best game came in Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals when he recorded two sacks, seven tackles, and two quarterback hits.
Jarrett played sparingly in his rookie season, starting just two games while recording one sack. The defensive tackle saw regular playing time in 2016, recording three sacks and 48 tackles in 14 starts. However, Jarrett had the game of his life in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots, recording three sacks and helping Atlanta jump out to a 28-3 lead.
Throughout his career, Jarrett has compiled 14 sacks, 40 quarterback hits, and 179 tackles. The defensive tackle can beat double teams and is a strong defender against both the run and the pass. Entering his age-26 season as the top defensive tackle on the market, Jarrett stands to make a lot of money. The only question is who will sign him.
The most likely fit is staying put with the Atlanta Falcons. Jarrett has improved on a yearly basis and should continue to improve as he enters the peak of his athletic career. The Falcons enter 2019 with a projected $20,967,799 in cap space, according to Spotrac.com. Jarrett will earn a significant payday, but Atlanta should be able to afford him without falling into financial turmoil. At the very least, Atlanta could utilize the one-year franchise tag.
Should Jarrett test the open market, the Kansas City Chiefs will likely make a play. Kansas City’s defense was a mess in 2018, finishing the year ranked 26th in DVOA. While Kansas City finished the year with the most sacks in the league, their defense couldn’t stop the run to save their lives. According to Football Outsiders, Kansas City had the worst run defense in the league by a wide margin. Chris Jones is a fantastic defensive tackle, but he gets pushed around too easily in the run game. Adding an anchor like Jarrett should immediately improve Kansas City’s biggest weakness.
Another possible fit is the Cleveland Browns. As mentioned in our other free agency profiles, the Browns have significant cap space and have a bright, promising future. Cleveland can afford to sign any player they want without worrying about the salary cap. Cleveland’s roster is solid overall, but they need another interior defensive lineman. According to Football Outsiders, Cleveland ranked 25th in run defense efficiency. Jarrett’s presence will dramatically improve that ranking while also providing yet another dangerous pass rusher along that defensive line.
Last Word on Grady Jarrett in Free Agency
Grady Jarrett was one of the best values in football over the first four years of his contract. Playing on a rookie deal, Jarrett established himself as one of the better interior defensive linemen in all of football. Jarrett enters free agency on the heels of his best season yet and, at the age of 26, still has a lot of football in front of him.
Jarrett stands out against the run and the pass, and it would be surprising to see the Atlanta Falcons let him leave. Spotrac expects the Falcons to have just under $21 million dollars in cap space entering the 2019 season. Jarrett will likely command a deal in the $16.5 million range, and Atlanta should be able to make that work. By backloading the contract and making other cap-saving roster transactions, Atlanta should be able to sign Jarrett and still make other moves this off-season.
If Jarrett reaches free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns should be two of the top competitors for his services. Kansas City has the biggest discount in the league in Patrick Mahomes and they should do everything possible to capitalize on winning during his rookie contract. A subpar defense hindered Kansas City’s Super Bowl aspirations in 2018, and they’ll need to address their defense over the off-season. Similarly, the Browns have tons of cap space and a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal. Cleveland’s defense isn’t bad by any means, but adding Jarrett could bring it over the top. Cleveland’s biggest defensive weakness is defensive tackle, and Jarrett could shore that up by himself.
Of course, every team in the league should be interested in Jarrett. Interior defensive linemen capable of making plays in the pass and run games are few and far between. Just about any team could land Jarrett if he hits the open market, it would just be a matter of managing the salary cap. If Atlanta lets him go, don’t be surprised if he ends up with any one of the 32 teams in the NFL.
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