A year ago (almost to the day), I wrote a column declaring that Grady Jarrett just might be the greatest defensive tackle in Falcons history.
That same day, Jarrett and the Falcons also agreed to a new four-year deal worth a reported $68 million with $42.5 million of it guaranteed. Not too bad for a guy who wasn't picked until the fifth round of the draft back in 2015.
With a deal in place and his financial future much more secure, how did Jarrett respond in 2019? Well, he went out and produced the best season of his five-year career. Jarrett registered a career high 7.5 sacks and 69 combined tackles. He also tallied 16 hits on quarterbacks and 12 tackles for a loss on his way to a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro selection.
So, it goes without saying that I stand by my words when it comes to Jarrett.
And as we celebrate the Atlanta Falcons 2010-19 All-Decade Team presented by American Family Insurance, there's no question that Jarrett – the only unanimous pick on defense – was without a doubt the best defensive lineman during the last decade for the Falcons.
Last September I wrote that we are witnessing the Golden Age of Falcons offense. What Falcons fans – and, really, NFL fans everywhere – are watching is one of the greatest quarterback-receiver duos to ever play the game in Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
I think something special is also brewing on the defensive side of the ball here in Atlanta.
When it comes to watching Jarrett, who is only 27 years old and in the prime of his career, I'm giving you the same advice as I did with the Ryan-Jones duo: Drink it in and sip slowly, Falcons fans.
In Jarrett, Falcons fans are witnessing the greatest defensive tackle in team history, and certainly the best one of this decade. All Jarrett has done is increase his sack total every single year he's been in the league and now has 21.5 after five seasons (and, no, that's not counting the three times he sacked Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI).
There might be a few players worth comparing to Jarrett in terms of this all-decade team conversation, but the debate wouldn't last very long. And even if you wanted to expand the field and look beyond this decade, the list wouldn't be much longer or that much stronger.
Let's face it, the Falcons haven't had a rich history littered with Pro Bowl or Hall of Fame-caliber defensive tackles like some other clubs.
Jonathan Babineaux was a fantastic player for the Falcons, there's no denying that. Before we look at his stats from the past decade, let's consider what Babineaux accomplished in his 12 seasons in Atlanta first.
Babineaux played in Atlanta from 2005 to 2016 and finished with 27 sacks and 393 combined tackles. In eight postseason games, he added 2.5 more sacks and 18 tackles. It's also worth noting that he didn't just play defensive tackle; he moved around quite a bit and also played defensive end.
Even if you threw in Babineaux's best season, which was 2009 (and not considered for this decade) when he tallied six sacks and 47 total tackles – both career-best totals – it doesn't stack up favorably to Jarrett.
Jarrett put up better single-season numbers in 2018 and 2019.
Again, Babineaux was a very good player for the Falcons, but he never put together a five-year run, production-wise, like Jarrett.
Who else do you want to throw into the ring when it comes to defensive tackles? Corey Peters? Tyson Jackson? Dontari Poe?
Peters played in 71 games, recorded 145 tackles and tallied 11 sacks. Jackson played in just 48 games, made 66 combined tackles and didn't register a single sack. Poe was a good player while in Atlanta – he tallied 2.5 sacks, 39 total tackles, four tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits – there is no argument to be made there.
What if we expanded the field and considered defensive ends, too? In terms of the last decade, only two names are worth mentioning production-wise: Vic Beasley and John Abraham. Of those two players, Abraham was by far the better player.
Abraham's numbers this past decade include 111 combined tackles, 32.5 sacks and 12 forced fumbles over three seasons (2010-2012). When it comes to tackles, Jarrett has made 137 more tackles (he has 248 total) and is close in sacks (21.5), which are harder to come by for interior defensive linemen.
No, there's no question Jarrett was the best defensive lineman of this past decade and I believe he'll go down as the best defensive tackle in Falcons history when it's all said and done.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was unanimously selected to the 2010-2019 Atlanta Falcons All-Decade Team.