Cover 9@9: 5 potential replacements for Vic Beasley

Vic Beasley talks about his up-and-down career with the Falcons. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. The no-spin zone. Vic Beasley received his walking papers from the Falcons' Brotherhood on Monday.

After being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Beasley played more than 3,000 snaps for the Falcons over five seasons and had 37.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.

It must be noted that he played for three different defensive line coaches — Bryan Cox, Bryant Young and Jess Simpson.

He played 3,169 snaps, according to Football Outsiders. He played 3,148, according to Pro Football Reference.

No one can take away his league-leading 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2016 that helped propel the Falcons to Super Bowl LI.

Here are Beasley's raw numbers: <br/>• 774 defensive snaps (73.3%) and eight sacks in 2019<br/>• In 2018, 700 (64.2%) and five sacks.<br/>• In 2017, 485 (46%) and five sacks. <br/>• In 2016, 671 (60.4% and 15.5 sacks.<br/>• In 2015, he played 539 snaps (51.3%) with a torn labrum and had four sacks.

It was no surprise that the team elected to move on from Beasley after he embarrassed the coach last offseason.

Coach Dan Quinn stuck his neck on the line for Beasley and announced at the scouting combine that he planned to work with him over the offseason. The team even picked up his $12.8 million fifth-year option, hoping to get something out of their investment.

Instead of running to the building to work with the head coach, Beasley elected to work out at a nearby gym less than 20 minutes from Flowery Branch.

For better or worse, Beasley is perceived as a situational pass rusher, who can’t hold up against the run on first and second downs. He’s the proverbial one-trick pony, who only has a speed rush.

The Falcons shopped Beasley at the trade deadline in each of the past two seasons and found no takers. He’ll likely find a very tepid free agency market come March 18.

“He’s a speed rusher with no power,” an AFC personnel executive told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution back at the trading deadline. “Everybody thought they over-drafted him. There are questions about if he loves football.”

The popular theory is that after the bust-out season in 2016, teams figured out Beasley’s moves and his inability to develop a counter move is why he had trouble getting to the quarterback.

Young laid out the Beasley conundrum in November of 2018, before he left the team for personal reasons.

“A guy like him, a 4.5 (40-yard dash) guy who can really get off the spot and speed around the edge, it would be great to have something that’s a change-up,” Young said. “That’s been his go-to, his off the edge speed and winning off the corner. That always keeps people honest when you can change it up a little bit.”

To Beasley’s credit, he was a standup guy in the locker room. He was always cordial and respectful to the media.

The former Clemson standout from Adairsville didn’t dodge questions about the team trying to trade him. He never hid out in the cafeteria during open locker room media time.

He never gave stupid one-word answers because he didn’t “feel like” fulfilling his media duties.

While things didn’t work out for him here, we wish him the best on the rest of his NFL journey.

2. Salary cap situation. The Falcons are $6.1 million under the cap and will need to make room with salary cap casualties and signing bonus manipulations just to handle some of the basics, while trying to get tight end Austin Hooper and/or linebacker DeVondre Campbell done.

Beasley's value is projected at three-years, $22 million or $7.3 million per year, according to spotrac.

3. Five potential replacements. The Falcons said they are not in salary cap hell.

So, if that’s the case, then maybe they can make a play for some edge rushing talent.

Here are the five best replacements for Beasley:  <br/>• Jadevon Clowney, Seahawks. He held up well against the run and enjoyed playing in Seattle's 4-3 after playing in Houston's 3-4 to start his career. While Clowney only had three sacks, he was disruptive. Seattle wants to bring him back and he likely won't hit the open market. Back in 2014, the Falcons had Clowney out to the facility during the pre-draft process. He worked on the force plate technology.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) protects the ball after he fumbled as he was sacked by Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) Nov. 24, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tampa Bay won 35 -22.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) protects the ball after he fumbled as he was sacked by Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) Nov. 24, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tampa Bay won 35 -22.

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

• Shaquil Barrett, Bucs. After being a backup linebacker for five seasons in Denver, Barrett busted loose for 19.5 sacks last season. He broke Warren Sapp's franchise record. He had just 14 sacks over his five previous seasons. Clearly, Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles figured out how to get Barrett some favorable one-on-one matchups.

• Chase Young, Ohio State. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff could fix the pass rush with a bold move up to second spot in the draft. It's been awhile since the 2011 draft when he moved up 21 spots to select Julio Jones sixth overall. That move has worked out well as Cleveland didn't know what to do with all of the picks. The Falcons hold the 16th overall pick, so a move up to 2 would only be 14 spots and not unprecedented.

• K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU. The 16th overall pick might be a little high for Chaisson, but if the Falcons fall in love with someone, they move mountains to get them. Last season, they over-drafted both of the linemen in the first round and also drafted safety Keanu Neal with the 17th overall pick back in 2017. Chaisson, who's 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, was a five-star recruit out of Houston. He can play with his hand in the ground or standing up.

• A.J. Epenesa, Iowa. He's 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, which is much bigger than Beasley (6-3, 246) and McKinley (6-2, 265). He had 22 sacks over the past two seasons, is versatile enough to play some tackle inside in pass-rush situations.

Some other draft prospects to investigate include: Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, Auburn’s Nick Coe, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos and Alabama’s Terrell Lewis.

3. Thomas sees line guru. Former Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said that he's been working out with former Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas during a visit on SiriusXM NFL radio on Tuesday.

Alexander said Thomas will likely go in the top 10. He helped analyze Falcons rookie Chris Lindstrom during the exhibition season.

4. Hooper rated 33. Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is listed as the 33rd best free agent by The Sporting News.

Interestingly, Hooper is listed behind San Diego tight end Hunter Henry, who’s ranked ninth.

The Sporting News notes that the Falcons will have to get creative to retain Hooper at his market value because of their tight cap situation.

5. Gono for left guard. The Falcons talk about their development plan, or Plan D. They've had two years to develop Matt Gono, who played 40 snaps last season.

He should get the first shot at left guard if James Carpenter is released.

6. Offseason surgeries. Free safety Ricardo Allen, defensive end Takk McKinley and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat have all shown up on social media after having offseason surgeries.

7. Scouting combine. The scouting combine is set to run Feb. 24 through March 2 at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Falcons' opponents in 2020

8. Franchise tag. Feb. 25 is the first day that team can designate Franchise or Transition players.

The Falcons used the Franchise tag on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to buy them some time last offseason. Hooper would be a possible candidate, but that would tie up much needed salary cap space. The deadline is March 10.

Teams can start negotiating on March 16. The league new year starts on March 18.

9. Fowler reunion? Draft analyst Tony Pauline of the Pro Football Network  wrote that Dante Fowler wants to play for the Falcons.

Fowler, who was drafted No. 3 overall in the same draft as Beasley, was traded by the Jaguars to the Rams.

He was recruited to Florida by Quinn.

Signing Fowler, would likely mean that the Falcons wouldn’t have enough money for Hooper.

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