Falcons decline 5th-year option on DE McKinley

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The Atlanta Falcons have declined the fifth-year contract option on defensive end Takk McKinley.

McKinley, the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, now will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season. He is due to make $1,858,200 this season. A source told ESPN that the fifth-year option for McKinley was worth $10,051,000.

The Falcons said in a statement that they are “taking a wait-and-see approach in terms of future contracts. Takk has shown the ability to produce at a high level and we look forward to his production in 2020.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn initially said the team would not pick up McKinley’s option when asked about it during the NFL combine. But when general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the Falcons were still pondering the move, Quinn held off on making the decision final, at least publicly.

Quinn recently said the team has faith in McKinley being a solid contributor on defense this season. But McKinley’s play has been inconsistent, with just 3.5 sacks in 2019 after 13 sacks combined through his first two seasons. McKinley had offseason shoulder surgery and is recovering.

This is the first known time the Falcons have declined a player’s fifth-year option. In somewhat of a surprise, the team decided to pick up the fifth-year option of 2015 eighth overall pick Vic Beasley Jr., who led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016 and then struggled with inconsistency the past three seasons. Picking up Beasley’s option meant paying him $12.81 million last season. The Falcons did not attempt to re-sign Beasley, who signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Tennessee Titans this offseason.

The team said the failed experiment with Beasley didn’t necessarily correlate with the decision on McKinley’s fifth-year option.

The Falcons, who have generated pressure on a league-low 23% of dropbacks over the past two seasons, are looking for vast improvement from the pass rush this season. They signed free agent Dante Fowler Jr., who is coming off an 11.5-sack season with the Los Angeles Rams, and selected Auburn’s Marlon Davidson in the second round of the NFL draft last week. They have Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett bringing pressure from the interior of the line.

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