The Atlanta Falcons are 4-3 and on top of the NFC South. While sitting on such a high perch, the national media is starting to piece together possible trade targets for a playoff contender. Rare air for these Falcons in recent years.
Despite the Falcons’ improvement, the pass rush is still below the standard set by the rest of the defense. They are an elite run-stopping team, with the No. 1 EPA in the NFL. However, they still have just 13 sacks on the season, most of which are coverage sacks.
The Falcons are linked with several edge rushers around the NFL and already in the draft. NFL.com is naming names, calling New York Jets edge Carl Lawson and ideal-trade target for the Falcons.
“Atlanta’s offseason upgrades on defense have been solid so far, with the Falcons allowing 4.8 yards per play through seven games, fourth-best in the NFL,” wrote Kevin Patra on NFL.com. “But the pass rush needs some pop. Atlanta’s 13 sacks are tied for fifth-fewest. Defensive tackle David Onyemata leads the Falcons with 18 QB pressures.
“Lawson generated seven sacks a season ago but has been squeezed to the fringe of a deep Jets rotation. Gang Green already traded one little-used player (Mecole Hardman). Shipping out Lawson, in the final year of his deal, should be next.”
Lawson was a standout at Milton High School before attending Auburn University. He’s relatively cheap carrying just a $3-million cap hit according to Spotrac.
The question becomes, is he a significant upgrade on Bud Dupree, Arnold Ebiketie, and Lorenzo Carter. In Ryan Nielsen’s defense, there’s only one edge rusher on the field at a time in most sets. Lawson’s had seven sacks in 2022, his most since he had 8.5 as a rookie. The Jets relegated him to the bench in 2023.
Carter has 20.5 sacks in five-plus seasons; Lawson had 27.
Patra has four-more pass rushers making moves in his trade column. Brian Burns and Justin Houston of the Carolina Panthers, Preston Smith of the Green Bay Packers, and Chase Young of the Washington Commanders.
We can make a strong argument that each of those players would be a better fit than Lawson.
Meanwhile Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings is missing from Patra’s list. The Vikings upset the 49ers on Monday night football and might not be willing to move their star-pass rusher.
While Hunter may be the ideal fit for the Atlanta Falcons, we’re not sure Lawson is enough of an upgrade to justify a trade.