The Atlanta Falcons aren’t done auditioning possible new recruits for a defense that allowed 459 points in 2021. As well as being linked to more than one versatile edge-rusher, the Falcons are set to host an inside linebacker who was a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
This four-year pro has experience working with members of the Falcons’ coaching staff. Specifically, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who coached the linebacker when the pair were with the Tennessee Titans.
Securing a deal for an active tackler who has missed only five games the last three years would help offset the loss of Foyesade Oluokun. The NFL’s leading tackler last season joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in the early hours of free agency.
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Pees’ Former Student Due to Visit Atlanta
Losing Oluokun leaves a void at the heart of the Falcons’ linebacker corps. The Falcons are already looking at options who could fill the gap, including one former Titan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
A reunion between Pees and Rashaan Evans makes sense, since the latter started every game when the former called the defense in Tennessee during the 2019 season. That was also the best campaign of Evans’ pro career, during which he logged 59 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The Titans expected numbers like those to be the norm when they selected Evans 22nd overall in 2018. Things haven’t always gone according to plan, but Evans has usually been productive when he’s gotten onto the field.
He didn’t miss a start in 2020, but an ankle injury cost him five games last season. Evans still managed to snatch the first two interceptions of his career and force a fumble.
One of those thefts occurred against AFC South rival the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14 and was captured by Kayla Anderson of WKRN News 2:
The Falcons could use a linebacker with Evans’ range and nose for the ball.
Oluokun Needs to Be Replaced
Inside linebackers aren’t valued as much as they used to be by today’s teams. The proliferation of versatile safeties who can play nearer the line of scrimmage has rendered many linebackers moot.
Replacing that level of production won’t be easy, but the Falcons need somebody with Oluokun’s sideline-to-sideline movement and playmaking flair. Evans would fit the bill in a system he knows well.
Still just 26, the 6’2″, 232-pounder has the starter’s experience to slot in right away and become the signal-caller of Pees’ defense. Signing Evans would also give the cash-strapped Falcons some flexibility regarding current middle linebacker Deion Jones.
He carries a significant cap hit worth $20,018,431 this year, according to Spotrac.com. That’s a hefty investment for a player who didn’t look like the best fit in Pees’ system a year ago.
Having Evans onboard would allow the Falcons to either release Jones outright, or else restructure his deal and ease the team’s cap restraints, which stand at $-3,672,527.
More money is needed to fix a weak pass rush that registered just 18 sacks last season. The Falcons are interested in versatile free agent Rasheem Green and will also visit with rush end Kemoko Turay, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.