The Falcons recently released Barkevious Mingo, who posted bail last week after turning himself into Arlington, Texas police on a charge of indecency with a child (sexual contact). These charges are serious, and any NFL organization would’ve parted ways with Mingo, who isn’t some world-class pass rusher worth waiting on the legal process to reveal the truth. With the Falcons now clearly in the market for a pass rusher, Terry Fontenot will have around $8.6 million in cap space in his endeavors. Will he sign a high-profile free agent or stick to his method of cheap, one-year veteran deals?
Houston is the perfect free-agent fit for the Falcons after spending the past two seasons with the Colts, where he recorded 19 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, and 30 quarterbacks hits across all 32 games. He’s had at least eight sacks in four straight years, and he’s managed 25 or more pressures in each of the last three seasons, too. He played only 59 percent of the defensive snaps in Indianapolis last year, but that is exactly what the Falcons would need from him. Mykal Walker could be the starting SAM backer, while Houston is the situational pass-rusher. His versatility to rush from the line or stand up all over formations should intrigue Dean Pees. The only problem with Houston is he’ll be the most expensive option on this list.
Ingram, 32, didn’t tally a sack during last year’s injury-filled season, but had hit the seven-sack threshold five straight seasons before falling short last year. However, he showed he can still be effective after finishing with a 72.3 PFF grade. That’s right in line with his 2019 grade of 74.7, where he got in on 69 percent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps and managed seven sacks. I prefer Houston over Ingram.
Murphy will turn 31 before the end of the season and is coming off a career-worst year for the Sacks in 2020 — recording two sacks and a Pro Football Focus grade of just 66.0. Over the past decade, the former second-round pick has recorded 191 tackles (33 for a loss), 66 QB hits and 26 sacks. He’s also forced 10 fumbles, defended six passes and hauled in an interception. His experience is apparent, and his experience playing outside linebacker and defensive end are valuable for Dean Pees and the Falcons’ new-look defense. Much like the other two veterans on this list, Murphy would be a rotational pass rusher. If he wouldn’t take a veteran minimum, Atlanta will likely pass.
The options are bleak, obviously. Griffen is a decent veteran option, but he’s entering his 12th NFL season and is coming off a down year after recording six sacks and 23 quarterback pressures. Griffen would be a good addition if the price is right, but if it isn’t a low-cost one-year deal; Fontenot will pass.
The former Falcon has always made the most out of his opportunities. Even though he’s never been an every-down pass-rusher, he’s going to get his, eventually. He has the occasional takeover game as well — six sacks in one game as a member of the Falcons against the Cowboys. He’s a high-character individual who will give some production on a team-friendly deal.