The Atlanta Falcons need pass rush help and may have found it by turning to an outside linebacker who once starred at Georgia. This edge-rusher hasn’t always replicated his collegiate performances in the pros, but he still flashed enough potential during four seasons with the New York Giants to encourage the Falcons to make their move in free agency.
A deal was struck on Monday, March 21 between the Falcons and former Bulldogs’ star Lorenzo Carter, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
By agreeing terms, the Falcons also fended off late interest from the Giants, who were keen to keep Carter in the NFC East, per Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo:
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This is the first move the Falcons have made to fix what was the worse pass-rush in the NFL in 2021.
Carter Has a Lot to Prove
While any capable edge-rusher is a welcome addition to a defense that logged just 18 sacks last season, Carter still has a lot to prove. He never truly convinced anybody with the Giants he could be consistently disruptive.
Carter was also putting together a fine run toward the end of last season, per Zack Rosenblatt of NJ Advance Media:
Overall, this level of consistency was rare for a player who possesses obvious big-play traits. Carter recorded five sacks in 2021, to go with four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception.
Those are respectable numbers that hint at a true playmaker waiting to be unleashed. In this sense, the Falcons are a great fit for Carter, whose 6’5″, 255-pound frame suit the 3-4 defense run by coordinator Dean Pees.
Atlanta’s scheme isn’t as aggressive as the one Patrick Graham ran with the Giants during Carter’s final two seasons with the team. Yet, Pees’ system will take better advantage of Carter’s natural versatility and put him in positions to make more plays to wreck both phases of an offense.
The change will be good for Carter, but it won’t be enough by itself to solve the biggest weakness on the Falcons’ defense.
Falcons Still Need a Dominant Edge
Adding Carter beefs up a paper-thin rotation at outside linebacker, but it won’t mean the Falcons shouldn’t still be shopping for a dominant edge defender. Carter doesn’t fit the bill, with just 14.5 sacks to his credit in the pros.
He’s more of an all-rounder, like he was during his best season at Georgia in 2016. Carter had five sacks, six tackles for loss, and forced and recovered two fumbles, according to Sports Reference.
There is still money under the salary cap for the Falcons to find a more prolific bookend for Carter. The franchise has $5,424,973 worth of space, per Spotrac.com.
That’s not a fortune, but it should be enough to hand a short-term deal to a veteran with a proven track for getting to quarterbacks. Perhaps another Georgia alum like Justin Houston would make sense.
He’s 33, but Houston is still a disruptive force from the edge, a talent he’s shown during stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. Having Houston team with and mentor 26-year-old Carter, as well as a rookie pass-rusher, would give Pees a nice set of options to help the Falcons create more pressure this year.