Falcons Tight End Luke Stocker

Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Options at Tight End

  • 12 Personnel
  • 2021 nfl free agency
  • 2021 NFL Offseason
  • Arthur Smith
  • Atlanta
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • falcons
  • Free Agency
  • Free Agents
  • Jonnu Smith
  • Justin Peelle
  • Kyle Smith
  • Luke Stocker
  • Matt LaFleur
  • Offseason
  • TE
  • tight ends
By Erich Hilkert February 23, 2021 0 Comment
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With an almost entirely new front office and coaching staff, the Atlanta Falcons are already hard at work evaluating which players currently on the roster will hang around and which players will have to go to get under the 2021 salary cap. That figure has yet to be determined and won’t become official until the start of the new league year, March 17th (estimates included here referenced via Over the Cap).

Given the Falcons’ salary cap situation, it is safe to say the Falcons will be bargain shopping this offseason. We know at this point that head coach Arthur Smith likes to run “12” personnel, relying heavily on two-tight end sets. Smith likes tight ends who can both regularly catch passes and be a willing blocker. It seems likely the Falcons will target at least one free agent tight end and possibly, in the 2021 NFL Draft.

What about tight ends from the 2020 roster?

First off, it’s important to mention the possibility of the Falcons retaining their two free-agent tight ends. Hayden Hurst should be the lead at tight end in 2021, but Smith will need more depth at the position. Here’s a list of some of the options the Falcons may target. 

Luke Stocker

The Falcons could choose to re-sign Luke Stocker (6-5, 253), the team’s second option at tight end in 2020. He is primarily a blocking tight end, but he has some pass-catching ability. In 2018, he collected 15 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns in former Falcons assistant and current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense (while LaFleur served as offensive coordinator for the Titans). He had 15 total receptions in his two seasons with the Falcons. So, he has not been used often as a pass-catcher. Stocker did earn a career-high 13 starts in 2020. On the one hand, Stocker seems due for a raise ($750,000 cap hit in 2020). On the other, his age (33) works against him, along with an expected buyers’ market. All in all, it seems unlikely the Falcons will hang on to Stocker due to his lack of production as a pass-catcher. 

Jaeden Graham

That brings us to the Falcons’ third option Jaeden Graham (6-4, 250), although he didn’t see a lot of snaps. Graham did have a higher level of production in 2019, tallying nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. The Falcons do have the advantage that Graham is an Exclusive Restricted free agent. Based on 2020 CBA figures, the Falcons could offer Graham $750,000 (that figure could change in 2021), and he would be back in the fold. If they decide he isn’t worth that price tag, they would simply renounce his rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. While that figure sounds modest, it is a high price to pay for someone who only had three receptions in 2020 and for a team that has to find money in every corner. Finding an option through the draft and even signing an updraft free agent might make more sense. 

Options on the open market

MyCole Pruitt

MyCole Pruitt (6-2, 245) is a real possibility to follow Smith to Atlanta. He could come in with a strong understanding of Smith’s system. He was under Smith’s positional guidance in 2018 and had Smith as OC in 2019 and 2020. In 2019, he started a career-high 10 games and averaged a career-high 15 yards per reception with one touchdown. He started four games in 2020, finishing with five receptions for 49 yards and two touchdowns. He signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract before the 2020 season. Another one-year deal might run slightly less, or the team could give Pruitt more long-term security in exchange for fewer dollars in 2020.

Geoff Swaim

Geoff Swaim (6-4, 260), who played for the Titans in 2020, is another possibility to join Smith in Atlanta. Swaim only counted $750,000 against the cap. The tight end should collect a similar figure in 2021. Swaim started eight games and finished with nine receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown in 2020. His strongest statistical season was in 2018 with the Cowboys, when he had 26 receptions for 242 yards and one touchdown. Given the Falcons’ cap restraints, he might be the best bet of anyone on this list to be on the Falcons in 2021.

Richard Rodgers

New tight ends coach Justin Peelle spent the past five seasons in Philadelphia. His former player Richard Rodgers (6-4, 257) could come to Atlanta to work for his positional coach of the last three years. In 2020, he had 24 receptions for 345 yards, a career-high 14.4 yards per reception, and two touchdowns. He had the most productive period of his career while catching passes from Aaron Rodgers with the Packers from 2014-17. He counted $750,000 against the cap in 2020, but he’ll be due for a raise after such a productive 2020 season. If Peelle has enough faith, a long-term contract would give Rodgers security. It’d also help the Falcons find a workable salary number for 2021. 

Jeremy Sprinkle

Jeremy Sprinkle (6-5, 252) has an interesting connection to the Falcons in that new VP of player personnel Kyle Smith helped bring him to Washington in 2017 in the fifth round of the draft. The tight end only had one reception for six yards and zero touchdowns in 2020, not matching his $2.2 million salary. However, in 2019, he had a productive year with 26 receptions for 241 yards and one touchdown. It could be that Sprinkle never found his footing in OC Scott Turner’s system. He certainly excelled in Kevin O’Connell’s West Coast scheme in 2019. 

Not likely, but worth exploring

Jonnu Smith

While the four above options seem realistic, two other intriguing options are worth exploring, despite being unlikely. Jonnu Smith (6-3, 248) is likely to fetch more than the Falcons can afford, but if they could structure the contract, it is possible they could make it happen. Head coach Arthur Smith would have great confidence for the team to go in this direction. The Browns signed tight end Austin Hooper away from the Falcons for $42 million. However, they structured the contract in such a way that he only counted $4 million against the cap in 2020. 

Joshua Perkins

Finally, a familiar name to Falcons’ fans: Joshua Perkins (6-3, 241). He caught a 26-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan during the 2016 season. It is important to note he is a restricted free agent, so the Eagles could easily match any offer. However, they may not be inclined to do so, after Perkins spent 2020 on injured reserve and with a new coaching staff. Like Rodgers, Perkins’ connection is to new tight ends coach Justin Peelle. Perkins has been under his guidance for the past three seasons. When last healthy, he had nine receptions for 87 yards and one touchdown (2019). He only counted $475,000 against the cap in 2020. He obviously comes with risk and that’s assuming he would even become available.

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Alabama grad in journalism. Past gigs: Saturday Down South, The Tuscaloosa News, Anniston Star.

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