In my opinion, the Falcons made two home run signings today, picking up Cordarrelle Patterson and Duron Harmon. Patterson came on a very reasonable one-year, $3 million contract, and I expect Duron Harmon to get something in the $4 million range. I already talked about the salary cap implications from the moves and how much Atlanta could need to sign their draft class, but they can’t do any of that unless Grady Jarrett is restructured or extended.
With the way the top 51 system works, teams only have to account for their top 51 players until the first week of the NFL season kicks off when calculating the salary cap. Right now, the Falcons have $183.5 million in cap liabilities and $166.9 million in spending on their top 51 before accounting for the Patterson and Harmon signings. Let’s assume that Harmon is making $4 million on a one-year pact. Without using the top 51 standard, that puts Atlanta at about $8 million over the $182.5 league cap — Harmon ($4 million) and Patterson ($3 million) in addition to the $183.5 in total cap liabilities.
If the Falcons choose to max restructure Grady Jarrett, that would open up $6.255 million in cap space for Atlanta and would put them roughly $1.75 million over the cap. Signing the two, Harmon and Patterson, will result in two $660K contracts coming off the books, subtracting $1.32 million from the top 51 figure. But for now, the Falcons don’t have to worry about complying with the salary cap outside of the top 51.
Personally, I’d be overjoyed giving Jarrett a big extension and equally satisfied with a restructure, as I don’t see his dead money creating any problems. The salary cap should rise significantly in the future with the new television deal being announced, but the Falcons really don’t have a choice either way.
According to the NFLPA’s public cap sheet and OverTheCap, the Falcons will be roughly $8.5 million over the cap if Harmon clocks in at $4.5 million. With only the top 51 contracts counting against the cap until the NFL season kicks off, the Falcons do get a little more room to operate. However, with Atlanta needing about $3.34 million in space to sign their draft class before any trades, they can get close to compliance with the league’s salary cap with a restructure or extension.
There is a real possibility that Jarrett’s contract has already been re-worked; there just hasn’t been an announcement made yet. I talked about the possibility of the Falcons signing one more free agent, and while it’s unlikely — re-working Grady Jarrett’s deal will go a long way with that. The question now becomes not if, but when we’ll get the announcement.