Atlanta’s new regime has already begun purging some contracts from the former front office, as guys like Ricardo Allen, Allen Bailey, and James Carpenter are no longer in Atlanta. I broke down some likely moves that would clear a lot of space for the Falcons in 2021 free agency, but what about next offseason? Thankfully, as of now, the salary cap is expected to rise significantly and Atlanta only has a few free agents they HAVE to retain.
Foyesade Oluokun and Russell Gage might need new contracts next offseason, and Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst may need extensions after depending on their fifth year options — so these guys won’t be included. With that being said, even with a rise in salary, the Falcons will still need to clear up some space. Here are some guys who have to perform better in 2021 to avoid being on the roster bubble. All cap figures for cut candidates are via Over the Cap.
RB Ito Smith
With it almost certain that the Falcons will look to add to the running back room via free agency, the draft, or both — Smith has to prove that he belongs. He has been decent so far for the Falcons, but running backs especially have to prove that they belong in order to get a second contract. Running backs on teams with little cap space have an even tougher uphill climb.
RB Qadree Ollison
We haven’t seen much of Ollison, and depending on how the draft and free agency goes — he could be buried even further on the depth chart. The 2019 5th round pick only has 23 career carries, and he’s going to have to carve out a role if he wants to remain on the roster. I still believe in Ollison’s potential, but he has to show that he’s more than a goal line bruiser.
2022 Dead Cap: $77k
2022 Cap Savings: $965k
WR Olamide Zaccheaus
Personally, I really like Zaccheaus as a player. It feels like he always steps in a few times during the season and provides some electricity to the game. As fun of a player as he is, Ridley and Gage are ahead of him in the pecking order for a new contract. He has to come out and prove that he’s consistent enough to be worth a deal before truly entering the same conversation as them.
RT Kaleb McGary
I don’t really see McGary getting cut at any point, mostly because I think he’ll bounce back this season and the money just doesn’t really make sense. He was actually very good to start 2020 before injuries began nagging him. Regardless, if Atlanta drafts a guy like Penei Sewell and signs an impact offensive lineman in 2021 free agency, he could be on the chopping block. I think the more likely outcome is his fifth year option being declined for the 2023 season, which is almost a foregone conclusion at this point.
2022 Dead Cap: $2.1 million
2022 Cap Savings: $1 million
DL Deadrin Senat
It feels like every Falcons fan bought into the Senat hype when he was drafted, and he has failed to make a big splash. Tyeler Davison‘s presence left Senat inactive for most games, but Davison is likely to be cut. I am almost positive that the Falcons will address the interior of the defensive line in free agency and the draft, but this is the year Senat has to prove that he belongs on this roster.
DL Marlon Davidson
It’s a bit too early to give up on Davidson, but it was frustrating seeing how little he played this past season. With Davidson being drafted so recently, cutting him does not present any notable savings. We have seen teams cut bait with former high picks that they think just don’t have “it”, but I don’t think that’s the case with Davidson. Holding onto Davidson is the right move regardless, but I really hope we get to see him healthy and making an impact like Falcons fans know he can.
2022 Dead Cap: $1.29 million
2022 Cap Savings: $591k
EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.
Yeah, this is the real obvious one. I don’t see the team cutting Fowler this season, he presents over a $10 million dead cap hit and less than $8 million in savings for a post-June 1st cut in 2021. Fowler is one of the main make-or-break candidates on this list, because if 2021 goes like 2020 — this will be an easy decision for Terry Fontenot. Even if he plays at an average level, I think it’s still likely that he lets go.
2022 Dead Cap: $4.6 million
2022 Cap Savings: $15 million
CB Kendall Sheffield
Sheffield showed a lot of promise in 2019, but he was eaten alive in 2020. With the Falcons sure to bring in some help at corner this offseason, Sheffield has to show that he has something. I think he will play better in 2021 because I think the Falcons will be improved as a whole, but his seat is as hot as anybody’s on this list.
2022 Dead Cap: $190k
2022 Cap Savings: $965k
CB Isaiah Oliver
Oliver still has some potential, and I truly think he can turn it around with a new staff and some help on the defense. Yes, Oliver was burned often in 2020, but he wasn’t as terrible as the narratives would have you believe. He improved a bit from 2019, and was pretty solid against the run. A move to nickel corner or safety may be in the cards if Atlanta brings in some talent via free agency or the draft. Oliver has to show something in 2021 to earn a new contract.
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