With free agency largely finished up, the Falcons primarily focused on short-term depth contracts for veterans that fit their offensive and defensive schemes. I don’t think it’s a bad strategy, sinking tons of money into Dante Fowler Jr, James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, and Todd Gurley has not paid dividends in recent years. However, the Falcons are not in an ideal position after free agency. They still need to sign their draft class, which is no short order.
Now that the Falcons have 55 players on their active roster, they fall under the Top-51 Rule, meaning — when the new league year starts in early March until Week 1 of the NFL season, the Falcons only have to account for their 51 largest contracts when calculating for the salary cap. This is another reason Atlanta has taken multiple cheap fliers, with a solid increase in the salary cap expected for 2022, they are simply biding their time.
So how much cap space do the Falcons have right now? As Matt Karoly noted, their three newest additions have had their contract figures released, leaving them with just over $4 million in cap room.
NFLPA updated today for the contracts of Josh Andrews, Steven Means ($987,500 cap hit, $300k gtd), and Jonathan Bullard ($850,000 cap hit, $0 gtd).#Falcons current top 51 cap space = $4,115,018
— Matt Karoly (@mattkaroly) April 7, 2021
That’s not much, so don’t expect the Falcons to go out and pay somebody like Jadeveon Clowney. It is not even enough to sign their draft class. As of right now, the Falcons expected Rookie Pool sits at $12,995,333. However, they only need $7,055,333 in cap space to sign the class:
The Rookie Pool is the total cost in cap dollars that a team needs to sign its rookies in the summer. The cap space required to do this is less than the rookie pool. This is because every draft pick signed will replace a player already counting against the cap. The effective cap space needed is equal to: Rookie Pool – ($660,000 * number of picks).
I’m not a math major, but the Falcons are still about $2.94 million short of signing their class, barring any trades. That means Grady Jarrett is likely to be restructured at some point, potentially after the draft concludes. It is worth noting, while the rookie cap hit for the fourth overall pick is $5.98 million, the ninth overall pick is only $3.8 million. So, if the Falcons were to trade down, that cap number scales down as well. I don’t expect the Falcons to make any more significant moves in free agency, but they will have to do something else to bring on their entire rookie class as the cap sheet currently stands.