I’m in the camp that believes the Falcons cap situation isn’t as dire as it seems. The team announced last week they freed up about $12 million by converting some of Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett’s deals to bonuses.
As great as it is to get that room, there’s still a lot of bad contracts on this team, and Austin Hooper has a massive extension looming. The Falcons have a lot of holes on both lines of scrimmage, so where can we go from here? Here’s how I would navigate the situation if I were in Rich McKay’s shoes.
Trade Devonta Freeman
This isn’t even a knock on Devonta. I’ve been hard on him in the past. It’s more of an indictment of Dirk Koetter. You cannot, and I mean CAN NOT pay a running back $9.5 million if your team is finishing 30th in the NFL in rushing. Our offensive line is porous; Dirk Koetter is allergic to running the ball, and Freeman is continuously injured. It’s just a recipe for disaster. Freeman needs a fresh start, and the Falcons need cap room. The most infuriating part of this season was no doubt when we didn’t trade him with an offer on the table from Detroit. If we can get a pick in exchange for Freeman and save $9.5 million, it would be a monumental success. If Dimitroff cannot find a suitor, Atlanta could still designate him a post-June 1st cut and save $6.5 million against the 2020 cap.
Cut James Carpenter Post-June 1st
My goodness, I remember when I was excited about getting Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Hands down two of the worst signings by any team this past offseason, as we gave them a combined seven years and $39.75 million to be the biggest liabilities on our offensive line. Carpenter has a $4.125 million dead cap hit against a $5.2 million salary, so for the Falcons to save a nice chunk of change, they will have to designate him a post-June 1st cut, which will cut his dead cap in half for 2020. Moving on from him this way would save the Falcons over $3 million against next year’s cap Brown’s penalty is actually higher than his salary, so we’re stuck with him for at least one more season. What an awful job by Thomas Dimitroff, and frankly, I have no idea why relying on offensive linemen from the Jets and Giants – arguably the two worst offensive lines from 2018 – was ever viewed as a good idea.
Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett were the two most obvious restructure candidates, but they are far from the only ones. According to Over The Cap (via Matt Karoly of Rise Up Reader), the Falcons can still create significant space by restructuring some of their most lucrative contracts, specifically for Julio Jones and Jake Mathews.
The following is the *max* savings potential for the #Falcons top 4 restructure candidates:
— Matt Karoly (@mattkaroly) January 4, 2020
Now, restructures essentially just push back when the money counts against the cap by converting some of their base salaries into a signing bonus, so the Falcons will have to be somewhat cautious, given they have already restructured the contracts of Jarrett and Ryan. However, I would expect them to do the same with at least one more of these guys.
Here’s a list of the cut’s I’d make, in no particular order:
- $3.35 Million Freed, $750K Penalty (+$2.6 Million)
- $2.375 Million Freed, Club Option Turned Down (+$2.38 Million)
- $6 Million Freed, $1.5 Million Penalty (+$4.5 Million)
- $5.75 Million Freed, $2 Million Penalty (+3.75 Million)
Jamal Carter, Austin Larkin, and Ahmad Thomas
- Combined $1.9M Freed Up
Stocker was easy. Schaub has a club option, but I have a lot of faith in Kurt Benkert as a potential backup. If Matt Ryan gets injured, the season is over anyway. Allen Bailey wasn’t a bad pickup, but I have a strong feeling we’ll draft some D-Lineman; I also really like what I saw out of John Cominsky. Sambrailo’s TD was cool, but he’s not worth the money for a swing tackle (which we will also probably draft). This O-Line was horrible, so I have no reservations about cutting any of them. The last set of guys are underachievers who can be replaced with UDFAs or through the draft at a later time.
As things stand now, the Falcons currently have over $11 million in projected cap space for 2020. By finding a new home for Devonta Freeman and cutting the players seen above, that number could be around $35 million, and that’s before Thomas Dimitroff has to consider restructuring the contracts of Julio Jones, Jake Mathews, and Desmond Trufant. While this situation may have looked dire during the 2019 season, the salary cap is an obstacle that can be easily maneuvered. Now, it’s up to Dimitroff to make the right moves with that extra change and not bring in scrubs like Jamon Brown and James Carpenter, as he did a year ago.