INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn put to rest speculation about the roster status of pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr., telling ESPN that keeping Beasley for the 2019 season is "the plan right now."
"I'm very excited about where I think he can go to, and we've had good conversations about the impact that he can make," Quinn said of Beasley, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and the 2016 NFL sack champion. "The biggest impact that he can make is doing it really consistently."
Beasley, who had a league-best 15.5 sacks in 2016, recorded just 10 sacks over the past two seasons. He had five sacks and no forced fumbles last season as the Falcons finished tied for 22nd in the league with 37 sacks. Beasley forced nine fumbles over his first three seasons, including tying for the league lead with six forced fumbles in '16.
Quinn will take over as the team's defensive coordinator, a move that he believes will put Beasley in the best position to succeed and perhaps get him back to playing at a high level. It will be up to Beasley to play with a sense of urgency no matter where he lines up.
"I think it's going to take really good preparation and really consistent play," Quinn said of Beasley becoming an impact player again. "So how do we get him to that? A lot of things are going to come into that. But if I didn't think that he could do it, I wouldn't [commit]. So that's our belief as an organization, to say, 'Hey, man, we believe you can get the job done.'"
Beasley, who was Quinn's first draft pick as the Falcons' coach, has one year left on his contract after the Falcons exercised his fifth-year option. Quinn is well aware that Beasley's '19 salary of $12.81 million becomes fully guaranteed on March 13, the first day of the new league year. He said he sees the team committing to that salary for Beasley, which also would equate to Beasley's cap number for '19, but he wouldn't commit to signing Beasley to a long-term extension before seeing how he performs this coming season.
"One hundred percent," Quinn said of Beasley having to earn an extension. "He's knows that. We know that. ... If he's the competitor we think he is, then those are the moments you live for. I'm excited to see what he can be this year."
The Falcons hope a resurgence by Beasley is part of the formula for much-needed improvement along the defensive line. The team has prioritized signing disruptive defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a long-term extension. The Falcons would rather do that to avoid eating up cap space than placing the franchise tag on Jarrett at a one-year price projected to be around $15.36 million. What happens with Jarrett could dedicate other moves, such as the Falcons' desire to bring back pass-rusher Bruce Irvin.
The Falcons seem likely to address the defensive line in the draft as well, possibly with the 14th overall pick. They could target a play-making defensive tackle with pass-rush ability to pair with Jarrett inside while Beasley and Takk McKinley rush from the edges. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects the Falcons to select Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver in Kiper's latest mock draft, and the team is impressed with Oliver heading into this week's NFL combine.