The Falcons have to free up some cap space this offseason. With a Grady Jarrett extension or restructure, the Falcons can free up enough money to sign their rookie class, but they may want to get even further under the cap to make some other free-agent additions. One way to do that is through trades and cuts. Familiar faces may be let go as the new regime brings some of “their guys” in. Some of these moves may come after June 1st, but I think that would only be in the form of a trade. Keep in mind; teams only get two Post-June 1st cuts, so not every player can just be released with this money-saving designation. They might still be cut, just for less money saved.
So, all cuts are Pre-June 1st figures. Post-June-1st trades aren’t designated; they just have to occur after June 1st. So, all trade figures will be Post-June 1st. I’ll be focusing mostly on draft picks from the past regime and not on guys who are undrafted free agents, practice squad regulars, future reserves contracts, or roster bubble signings — most of those guys are obvious cut candidates. Also note, I’m not advocating or predicting for any of these guys to lose their job. I’m just listing candidates and their potential cap savings. All figures are via Over the Cap.
Dead Money: $155,782
We already saw a friend of the site Ito Smith released earlier this offseason in a head-scratching move, and with undrafted free agents Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley in the fold for much cheaper, Ollison is undoubtedly on the chopping block. I’d like to see him get some more action before letting him go like this, but it’s certainly a possibility.
Dead Money: $1,668
Zaccheaus is the only non-draft pick on this list, and it’s because his play has been so good for the Falcons. O has had some exciting moments in Atlanta, but with guys like Frank Darby and Antonio Nunn coming in as fresh blood, he’s certainly a candidate to be released, even with an inexpensive contract. I want to keep him, but this is a crowded wide receiver room. Unless he balls out in camp or the extensions move the needle in a big way, he’s on the roster bubble.
IDL Deadrin Senat
Dead Money: $204,490
I could see the Falcons holding onto Senat simply because of the lack of depth they have upfront, but he clearly wasn’t in the good graces of the last regime. I’d rather hang onto him and see what he has (finally), but he’s a cut candidate after Tyeler Davison took a pay cut.
Dead Money: $363,027
You can make the argument that the Falcons could trade Isaiah Oliver for a late-round pick, but I’m not entirely sure you can get anything in return for him. Like Senat, with the lack of depth in the secondary, don’t be surprised to see the Falcons hang on to Oliver unless money gets really tight.
Dead Money: $379,884
Sheffield is one guy you could make the argument for cutting after June 1st, as his savings rise to $850,000. However, that’s pretty marginal, and he didn’t play very well in 2020. He needs a big camp, especially with all the talent coming in that can play nickel corner and safety.
WR Julio Jones
Dead Money: $7,750,000
No, Julio Jones isn’t going to be traded. Yes, he still needs to be listed as a candidate. I just think the front office was listening to offers to see if they got something ridiculous. I don’t think it would be wise to walk back “we’re committed to building around Matt Ryan and winning now” by trading the best receiver on the planet.
WR Russell Gage
Dead Money: $39,048
Russell Gage is interesting because I do think he would fetch something in return, but I have the same logic with Gage as I do with Julio — trading Gage is addition by subtraction. You can scrounge up $2 million by making other moves; I think Gage will thrive under Arthur Smith.
TE Hayden Hurst
Dead money: $0
Obviously, Hurst wasn’t a draft pick, but he is the most significant question mark on this list. This is the only move I’m going to truly advocate for. With Hurst’s fifth-year option declined, you might as well rip the band-aid off now if you can get a fifth- or sixth-round pick in return. No, the savings aren’t enormous, but if the Falcons aren’t committed to Hurst for around $5 million next season, they should see if they can parlay him into a fourth-round pick and let Jaeden Graham see the field some more. I like Hayden Hurst as a person and as a player, but I’d be willing to trade him. If not, I have no problem handing him an extension for around what his fifth-year option would have been if he plays well in 2021.