After the Falcons let De’Vondre Campbell walk in 2020, Foyesade Oluokun moved into his role as a three-down linebacker alongside Deion Jones. Oluokun has produced consistently throughout the past two seasons and is poised to generate interest as a first-time free agent next week.
The Falcons want to retain Oluokun, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, but his market may reach the eight-figure-per-year level. The NFL’s reigning tackles leader will “most likely” surpass the $10MM AAV mark, Pelissero notes.
Not missing any time last season, Oluokun racked up 192 tackles — the NFL’s highest single-season total since the 1990s. The 17th game being implemented in 2021 helped various stat totals last season, and linebackers are judged on more than their tackle production. Pro Football Focus did not grade Oluokun particularly well in 2021. Still, that is an eye-popping tackle number for a player who is a former sixth-round pick out of Yale. The speedy off-ball ‘backer has also totaled five interceptions — one of which a game-winning INT against the Lions late last season — and five sacks since taking over as a starter in 2020.
Atlanta already has Jones tied to a high-end linebacker deal and currently has Matt Ryan set to carry the largest cap hit in NFL history ($48.7MM). As of Thursday, the Falcons hold barely $4MM in cap space. Oluokun and other off-ball linebackers will benefit from the position’s market growing last year, via the extensions for Darius Leonard and Fred Warner, and the cap rising by nearly $26MM. Oluokun, 26, will be one of the top young linebacker options on this year’s market, which will also include Campbell, who is coming off an All-Pro season.