Grady Jarrett Given Franchise Tag by Falcons with Goal of Agreeing New Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2019

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 30: Grady Jarrett #97 of the Atlanta Falcons in action during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. The Falcons won 34-32. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons placed the franchise tag on veteran defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, the team announced Monday.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team intends on continuing negotiations with Jarrett on a long-term deal: "As we have said since the end of the season, getting a deal done with Grady is our priority. Applying the franchise tag to him does not change that in any way. Our aim is for Grady to be an integral part of our plan for many years to come and this allows us to extend our negotiating window."

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted Jarrett will make $15.2 million under the franchise tag.  

The 25-year-old was set to become a free agent this offseason. Perhaps motivated by his opportunity to hit the open market, he enjoyed a career year in 2018.

Jarrett posted 52 combined tackles and six sacks, the latter of which were tied for second-highest on the team.

Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle took a deeper dive to show how effective he was when he pressured the quarterback:

"Jarrett finished the regular season ranked fourth in pass-rush win percentage (16.6) and sixth in pressure percentage (12.3), recording 71 pass-rush wins and 53 total pressures in the process. His pass-rush ability on third down was particularly impressive, as he recorded the third-ranked win percentage (21.8) and second-ranked pass-rush grade (90.1) on third downs throughout the regular season."

Given the state of the Falcons defensive line, re-signing Jarrett was a top priority. Atlanta tied for 22nd in team sacks (37) and ranked 25th in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.

Vic Beasley looked like the dominant pass-rusher the team needed when he registered 15.5 sacks in 2016. However, he followed up with 10 combined sacks between 2017 and 2018. Likewise, Takkarist McKinley has 13 sacks through his first two yearsnot a great return for a first-round draft pick.

In December, CBSSports.com's R.J. White listed defensive end and defensive tackle among the Falcons' needs heading into the 2019 NFL draft. He argued the tackle position still needed to be addressed even if Jarrett returned.

Defensive tackle Terrell McClain is also a free agent, and Atlanta would benefit from looking for an upgrade rather than attempting to re-sign him.

Losing Jarrett would have left the defensive line even more short-handed. With only $22.3 million in salary-cap space, per Over the Cap, the Falcons' options to replace him in free agency would have been slim as well.

By getting Jarrett's status resolved in the short term, Atlanta can shift its focus on improving other facets of a roster responsible for a 7-9 record in 2018.