The Atlanta Falcons have the NFL’s leading tackler this season on their roster. He’ll still be there in 2022 if the player gets his way.
One of the Falcons’ most valuable pending free agents has let the franchise know he wants to stick around.
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Breakout Star Wants Falcons Return
Foyesade Oluokun has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Falcons during the 2021 season. He’s adapted well to the role of on-field signal-caller in coordinator Dean Pees’ defense.
Greater responsibility has been matched by increased production. Oluokun is currently pacing all tacklers around the league ahead of the final weekend of the regular season:
Being above likely future Hall of Famer, the Seattle Seahawks‘ Bobby Wagner, only underlines the strides Oluokun has taken this season. In the process, he’s emerged as one of the rising middle linebackers in the game. His burgeoning status means Oluokun will likely draw interest if he hits the open market, as he’s scheduled to this offseason.
Fortunately for Pees and head coach Arthur Smith, Oluokun is happy in his current role. He’s expressed his desire to return, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Oluokon has been making people take notice with his performances. He wants those closer to home to pay the most attention.
The four-year pro has revealed discussions with general manager Terry Fontenot won’t take place until after the season concludes. In the meantime, Oluokun hopes his body of work so far is enough to convince the Falcons to offer him a new deal, according to The Athletic‘s Josh Kendall:
Oluokun will have one more chance to convince Fontenot to show him the money. It’ll come when the Falcons host NFC South rival the New Orleans Saints in Week 18.
The Falcons can win for the eighth time during Smith’s first season at the helm. Not to mention the added sweetener of ending the flickering playoff hopes of a bitter foe.
There’s every reason to believe Oluokun will thrive once again. He has been an active presence all season, using his speed to get to the ball in a hurry and also showing more of an aggressive streak when playing downhill.
Oluokun’s reward has been a place among history’s most prolific tacklers. Falcoholic writer Evan Birchfield noted Oluokun has joined another dynamic middle linebacker from the Falcons’ past:
Aside from keeping Jessie Tuggle company in the record books, Oluokun is also another of the Falcons’ key free agents who wants to stay on the team.
Falcons Can Retain a Winning Core for 2022
The Falcons have performed above expectations for most of this season. Many would accept the roster is far from loaded, so Smith and his staff have done well to engineer seven wins.
Unheralded players like Oluokun are a big reason for the better-than-expected record. He’s part of a core group Smith can shape into a winning team in 2022.
Oluokun is also one of a clutch of free agents Fontenot needs to bring back. Fortunately, the main names haven’t been shy about wanting to don a Falcons jersey again next season.
Aside from Oluokun, leading rusher and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has gone public with a plea to stay. He told Falcons Multimedia Features reporter Kris Rhim he’s open to finishing his career in Atlanta.
Keeping Patterson in the fold would help the offense take a step or two forward next season. Retaining Oluokun in the lineup would keep a key playmaker on a defense that’s shown glimpses of becoming something special on Pees’ watch.
A look at the Falcons’ full list of pending free agents, per Spotrac.com, reveals other important names. Many of them are on defense, including safety Duron Harmon, who knows Pees’ schemes well, along with cornerback Fabian Moreau, a shrewd veteran partner for 2021’s breakout star, A.J. Terrell.
Kicker Younghoe Koo and punter Thomas Morstead, are capable specialists Fontenot should also try to keep. Handing fresh terms to everybody won’t be easy, especially when somebody like Oluokun has played his way to a more lucrative salary than the $651,657 he’s earned this season.
The Falcons need to address the offensive line and pass rush, but retaining the talented core already at their disposal is the quickest way to build a winner.