Restructuring can be tricky in the NFL, and with the dead cap hits for key players through the roof, this will come down to what the front office wants to do with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. This article from the Ringer breaks down the basics of restructuring nicely:
Restructuring contracts takes two main forms. The first is the “we’re going to release you unless you take a paycut” negotiating tactic, when NFL teams flex on their employees because players’ contracts aren’t guaranteed. That’s how the Rams turned Tavon Austin’s remaining four years, worth up to $36 million, into a one-year deal worth $5 million. The second and more precarious type of contract restructuring is called a conversion. For example, a team could take a player’s 2018 salary, which would count against the 2018 cap, and convert that figure into a signing bonus. The real, actual cash is paid to the player right away, but the cap hit of that money is spread across the remaining years of the player’s contract. The team gets short-term flexibility by punting most of the cap hit down the road, and the player gets the same amount of money but receives it up front rather than in installments throughout the year. It’s a win for the player, and when done right, a win for the team.
Keep in mind, restructuring just kicks the can down the road. Hopefully, the salary cap rises in a post COVID NFL, but this isn’t a cure all — it’s a band-aid for this season. Any figures and estimates are via OverTheCap.
Possible Cut Candidates:
These are the guys who don’t have trade value, and in a tight spot, Atlanta will either have to restructure them or likely part ways via a cut. All of these players present some sort of savings when cut, but you can read about that here. Restructuring Ricardo Allen or Allen Bailey presents $0 in savings for Atlanta via OverTheCap, so they are not listed. Unless either takes a straight pay cut, they’re likely to be released.
EDGE Dante Fowler Jr
2021 Cap Hit: $18.6 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Pre June 1st: $15.3 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st: $10.6 million
Restructure Savings: $6 million
I think the Falcons will keep Fowler. He’s worth taking one crack at in a new defensive scheme. I wouldn’t recommend restructuring his contract because if he flops again, cutting him next offseason becomes even more difficult.
IOL James Carpenter
2021 Cap Hit: $6.5 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Pre June 1st: $2.5 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st: $1.2 million
Restructure Savings: $1.96 million
Same deal with Carpenter; I’d rather just pay him or release him. Interior O-Line is a huge need in this draft, so he would present considerable savings after June 1st. Putting the team in a bad spot for under $2 million just doesn’t seem like a good move.
IDL Tyeler Davison
2021 Cap Hit: $4.7 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Pre June 1st: $2.4 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st: $1.2 million
Restructure Savings: $1.1 million
Notice a theme here? Unless these guys are taking pay cuts, I don’t see the value in restructuring. Davison is pretty cheap, but money will be tight.
Long Term Pieces for Flexibility:
I don’t expect Atlanta to move on from any of these guys, and their current Post June 1st dead cap hit is listed for reference. Most of them have been restructured already, so that’s why you have these massive dead cap hits. I have the cut and trade figures listed, but the Falcons obviously aren’t going to cut any of these players. The further a guy is away from free agency, the more his cap hit can be spread out. I’m in favor of restructuring pretty much all of these players; they’re the core of this team.
2021 Cap Hit: $20.2 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Cut): $7.2 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Trade): $7.2 million
Restructure Savings: $8 million
Easy call. Jake Matthews catches a lot of heat from the fans, but he’s still a very solid tackle, and I don’t see Atlanta moving on anytime soon. You could argue trading him if Atlanta takes Penei Sewell in the draft, but I don’t think addition by subtraction is the proper course of action, especially in the trenches.
QB Matt Ryan
2021 Cap Hit: $40.9 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Cut): $23.4 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Trade): $17.9 million
Restructure Savings: $14.6 million
Another easy one. Look, I don’t want Matt Ryan going anywhere. Arthur Smith had Ryan Tannehill as statistically one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL. He can get Matt Ryan back to MVP form, so cutting or trading him over the life of his contract just isn’t a big concern to me.
WR Julio Jones
2021 Cap Hit: $23 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Cut): $0
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Trade): $0
Restructure Savings: $9.5 million
Same with Julio. Now is not the time to trade Atlanta’s star receiver, for reasons that I outlined here. Yes, you can deal him for no dead money — but he’s the face of the franchise, and I want him in Atlanta for the rest of his career.
LB Deion Jones
2021 Cap Hit: $12.6 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Cut): $3.9 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Trade): $3.9 million
Restructure Savings: $4.8 million
Debo is a pretty solid bargain on this contract, and while he slowed down a bit in 2020, I think Dean Pees will have him back at an All-Pro level. His savings may be small enough to warrant not restructuring, but he will be considered.
IDL Grady Jarrett
2021 Cap Hit: $20.8 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Cut): $10 million
2021 Dead Cap Hit Post June 1st (Trade): $5.5 million
Restructure Savings: $6.3 million
I could see the Falcons holding off on restructuring Jarrett’s contract. Not because I want to move him, but I think $6.3 million may not be worth the future cap implications. His next contract is likely to be quite big, but he’s another guy I want to be a career Falcon.