Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff addresses the team's intent on defensive lineman's situation at the NFL combine. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter / AJC)

Cover 9@9: What the Falcons can learn from Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence deal

1. Franchise tag issues. The Falcons have not used to franchise tag on a key player under general manager Thomas Dimitroff since 2012.

They used it on cornerback Brent Grimes, who made $10.2 million that season. He played in the first game and suffered a torn Achilles and was out for the season.

In 2013, the Falcons elected to move on from Grimes, who signed with Miami. 

The Falcons placed the $15.2 million franchise tag on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett with the hopes of entering into a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

The Falcons can learn something from how the Dallas Cowboys handled their situation with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. 

Lawrence, 26, signed a $105 million, five-year contract with the Cowboys on Tuesday. 

Like the Falcons, the Cowboys have several young players who have big deals coming up. The Cowboys cleared $9.5 million under the salary cap by reaching the deal with Lawrence and now have room to move on to quarterback Dak Prescott. 

The Falcons have several players coming up for new deals headlined by middle linebacker Deion Jones, strongside linebacker DeVondre Campbell and safety Keanu Neal. 

The Falcons have stated, on several occasions, that signing Jarrett to a contract extension is the top priority of the offseason. 

Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL last season, with an average salary of $22.5 million after signing a six-year, $135 million contract in August. He paid big dividends by leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks.

Jarrett, a former fifth-round draft pick, made $1.9 million last season. He had six sacks last season and has 14 in his career. The sides tried to reach on a contract extension before last season, but were unsuccessful.

At the combine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the two sides were far apart. 

With the offseason program set to start on Monday, the Falcons can send a message to the team by signing Jarrett to a long-term deal and open up some salary cap room to move on to the other deals. 

2. Gettis, Ishmael deals: The numbers are in on the one-year deals that offensive guard Adam Gettis and linebacker Kemal Ishmael. 

Gettis signed a one-year contract worth $805,000 with the Falcons. He’s been bouncing around the league since 2012 and has only started one game and played in 17. 

Ishmael signed a one-year, $890,000 deal and received a $90,000 signing bonus.

3. Middle round moves: The Falcons have two compensatory picks in the fourth and fifth round of the upcoming NFL draft.

Teams are awarded compensatory picks from the league office for losing players in the previous season’s round of free agency. Last season, the Falcons lost wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (Bears), defensive tackle Dontari Poe (Panthers) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (Patriots).

He was re-signed after getting released by the Patriots in March.

Last season the Falcons selected running back Ito Smith in the fourth-round of the draft. The team traded it’s fifth-round pick to Denver in the Ty Sambrailo trade.

4. Four picks in 2017: The Falcons had one fourth-round pick and three fifth-round picks in 2017. Guard Sean Harlow has yet to play in a game.

In the fifth-round the Falcons selected defensive Damonta Kazee (149), running back Brian Hill (156) and tight end Eric Saubert (174). 

Kazee started at free safety last season after Ricardo Allen suffered a rupture Achilles injury and tied for second in the league with seven interceptions. He’s moving to nickel back.

Hill and Saubert have been reserves.

5. Campbell a keeper: In 2016, the Falcons selected DeVondre Campbell with their fourth-round pick (115) as he’s been a starter since arriving.

The team didn’t have a fifth-round pick in 2016. 

Jarrett picked. In the fourth-round of the 2015 draft, the Falcons selected wide receiver Justin Hardy (107). Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (137) was selected in the fifth round.

Hardy has been a reserve and key special teamer, while Jarrett has developed into a starter and currently holds the team’s $15.2 million franchise tag.

6. Freeman, Allen picked. In 2014, the Falcons had two fourth- and fifth-round picks.

In the fourth-round, the Falcons selected running back Devonta Freeman (103) and linebacker Prince Shembo (139). Defensive back Ricardo Allen (147) and linebacker Marquis Spruill (168) were taken in the fifth-round.

Freeman turned into a Pro Bowler and Allen has been a starter after being cut, put on the practice squad and being converted to a free safety. 

Shembo and Spruill are out of the NFL.

7. Davison visits: Former Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is set to visit the Falcons, according to NFL Media.

Davison, who’s 6-foot-2 and 309 pounds, has spent the past four seasons with the Saints.

Davison, who played at Fresno State, was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2015 draft. 

Davison had 95 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles over the last four seasons. He’s played in 61 games and has made 48 starts. 

Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn records the fifth sack of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott during the second half in a NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Atlanta.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

8. Falcons free agency tracker: With free agency winding down, here’s a look at the Falcons’ updated situation:

NEW FALCONS 

Adrian Clayborn, defensive end.  Signed a one-year contract that is worth $2 million on Tuesday, April 9. He received a $750,000 signing bonus. 

Adam Gettis, guard: Signed a one-year contract worth $805,000 with the Falcons on Thursday, April 4. He’s been bouncing around the league since 2012 and has only started one game and played in 17. 

James Carpenter, guard: Signed a four-year $21 million deal on March 14. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus.

Jamon Brown, guard: He signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract, which included a $5.5 million signing bonus on March 14. 

Luke Stocker, tight end. Signed a two-year contract worth $5.5 million on March. 15. He received a $1.5 million signing bonus. 

Kenjon Barner, returner. Signed a one-year contract worth $895,000 on March 15. He received a $40,000 signing bonus.

STAYING

Kemal Ishmael, linebacker: He signed a one-year, $890,000 deal that was signed on Thursday, April 4. He received a $90,000 signing bonus.

Justin Hardy, wide receiver: He signed a one-year $895,000 deal on March 22. He received a $90,000 signing bonus. 

Logan Paulsen, tight end: He signed a one-year $1.02 million deal on March 18. He received a $90,000 signing bonus.

Matt Schaub, quarterback: Signed a two-year, $3.78 million contract extension on March 12. Schaub received a $750,000 signing bonus and has a base salary of $1.03 million for 2019. His salary cap number is $1.405 for 2019. The team can exercise the option for 2020 which calls for a $2 million base salary with a salary cap number of $2.375 million. 

Ty Sambrailo, right tackle/guard: He signed a three-year contract extension that’s worth $14.25 million over three years  with escalator clauses that could push it up to $18 million , according to NFLPA documents. He received a $3 million signing bonus. The deal averages $4.75 million per year before the escalator clauses kick in for 2020 and 2021. A total of $6 million of the contract is guaranteed.

Bruce Carter, linebacker: He signed a one-year, $930,000 deal (cap number $645,000; cash value $930,000).

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback: He signed a one-year, $895,000 deal with a $90,000 signing bonus on Feb. 25. 

Steven Means, defensive end: He signed a one-year, $895,000 ($90,000 signing bonus; contract year 2019, cap number $735,000, cash value $895,000.

MOVING ON 

Jordan Richards, safety: Ended up splitting the strong safeties duties with Sharrod Neasman last season. Signed with the Raiders on Friday. 

Bruce Irvin, defensive end/linebacker: He signed a one-year $4 million deal with the Panthers on March 19. He received a $1.4 million signing bonus. 

Brian Poole, cornerback: Signed a one-year $3.5 million deal with the Jets on March 15. He received a $2 million signing bonus. 

Brooks Reed, defensive end: He was cut and signed with Arizona. He signed a one-year $1.625 million deal on Feb. 11. He received a $250,000 signing bonus. 

Robert Alford, cornerback: He was cut and signed with Arizona. He signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal on Feb. 8. He received a $4.5 million signing bonus.

Tevin Coleman, running back: He signed a two-year $10 million deal with the 49ers.

Marvin Hall, wide receiver (exclusive rights free agent): Signed a one-year contract worth $645,000 with the Chicago Bears on March 15.

Justin Bethel, cornerback: Led the team in special teams tackles last season. He signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Ravens on March 19. He received a $1 million signing bonus. 

STILL AVAILABLE

Ryan Schraeder, right tackle: He was released by the team on Wednesday. By cutting Schraeder post June 1, the Falcons gained $6.45 million in salary-cap room and will have a $3.8 million hit on their dead money on the $188.2 million.

Matt Bryant, kicker: Team declined to exercise their option. He wants to keep playing at age 44. 

Andy Levitre, left guard: He wants to keep playing after missing most of the past two seasons with a pectoral injury. Was the opening day starter at left guard the past four seasons, but the team is moving on from him. 

Ben Garland, right guard: Couldn’t get the job done at guard over the past two seasons. 

Zane Beadles, offensive guard: Signed as a veteran stop-gap after Levitre and Fusco went down with injuries.  

Derrick Shelby, defensive end: Tried to play through a groin injury last season. Team released and re-signed him last season, but don’t want him back this time around.

Terrell McClain, defensive tackle: He was a place holder after team couldn’t re-sign Dontari Poe. 

Joe Condo, long snapper: He was signed when Josh Harris was injured. 

9. Falcons pre-draft depth chart: After the signing of Clayborn, here’s the updated depth chart.

Offense

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14, Justin Hardy, 83 Russell Gage, 16 Christian Blake 

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 77 Matt Gono 

LG James Carpenter, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 60 Adam Gettis

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RG 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Brandon Fusco, 64 Sean Harlow 

RT 74 Ty Sambrailo, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 88 Luke Stocker, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 87 Jaeden Graham, 89 Alex Gray 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 7 Devin Gray 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 43 Jeremy Langford

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz, 88 Luke Stocker 

Defense

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 56 Steven Means

DT 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Michael Bennett, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn

WLB 54 Foyesade Olukon, 42 Duke Riley, 

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 53 Jermaine Grace 

CB 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

NCB 27 Damontae Kazee, 

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 38 Taveze Calhoun 

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 40 Ryan Neal 

Specialists

K 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher 

P 5 Matt Bosher 

KR 38 Kenjon Barner, 14 Calvin Ridley

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 38 Kenjon Barner 

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher 

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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