In a press conference yesterday, Terry Fontenot was asked how he would improve the roster with a tight cap and so many spots to fill. To which Fontenot responded, “Everything is in consideration. We’re going to have to make some hard decisions on this roster.” This gave me the feeling there might be some surprising transactions the media and fanbase don’t see coming — particularly shocking cuts/releases of players thought to be locks to make the 53-man roster. This is purely speculation, but here are a few players that could unexpectedly hit free agency this offseason.
All figures were found on OverTheCap.
This isn’t a particularly surprising cut when you consider the level of production Fowler had this past season and how much he is getting paid. If Fontenot felt that he wasn’t a cultural, scheme, or even value fit, designating Fowler one of the team’s two post-June 1st cuts would save the Falcons around $8 million against the cap in 2021. It wouldn’t be done without caution, as Fowler truly is the only proven edge rusher on the roster as it stands today. If he is released, there will be at least four new faces brought in this offseason to bolster the edge.
James Carpenter played below average in pretty much every facet of offensive line play but was a serviceable starter, all things considered — just not for how much he was getting paid. He’s a worse run-blocker than he is in pass sets, which doesn’t bode well in Arthur Smith’s offense. It’s not necessarily that Carpenter will net the Falcons a sizable chunk of change; it’s more related to scheme fit. If designated a Post-June 1st cut, he would save the Falcons over $5 million against this year’s cap. If not, and he was cut before June 1st, it would still save Fontenot over $4 million.
Terry Fontenot was in New Orleans when the Saints drafted Tyeler Davison in 2015, and he was also there when the team decided to let him walk in 2018. Davison signed with the Falcons to be a 4-3 defensive tackle, which doesn’t make entirely too much sense in Dean Pees’ defensive scheme. Cutting him before June 1st would save the Falcons $2 million in 2021. Designating him a Post-June 1st cut would save Atlanta close the $3.5 million this season.
There’s no beating around the bush; Isaiah Oliver has been overwhelmingly disappointing during his time in Atlanta. Jeff Ulbrich and Raheem Morris decided to permanently move him to the nickel, where he performed much better. His play still wasn’t great, but it was a welcomed surprise. It’s entirely possible Fontenot’s — who scouted and schemed against the Falcons twice a year since Oliver entered the league — first thought on personnel was to release him. If Fontenot has no intentions of giving Oliver a second contract, what’s the point of keeping him this year? Cutting him would save $2 million in 2021; it’s a no-brainer now that I wrote it out.
If you cut all of the aforementioned Falcons, Fontenot would save around $15 million in 2021, depending on the designations given to them. These aren’t necessarily likely to have happened if the salary cap had increased in 2021 like it had every year over the past decade. Still, with the loss of revenue, the next couple of years will reflect completely different offseason strategies than in the past.
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