Three of the four cuts that pretty much everyone expected have happened, and Atlanta is only sitting about $15 million over the cap as it stands if you assume the salary cap will be a projected $183 million (via Over the Cap). Hopefully, that number is closer to $190 million, which will make it even easier for the Falcons to get out of the red. Either way, they won’t be there much longer.
UPDATE: The salary cap has been announced at $182.5 million
The fourth guy that is destined for release is Tyeler Davison, who has been decent but unspectacular for the Falcons since signing a three year, $12 million extension last offseason. It’s a pretty reasonable contract, but not for a team that’s currently cash-strapped. Davison does have ties to Terry Fontenot after coming to the Falcons from the Saints, but I don’t think that will be enough to save his job. Fontenot was in New Orleans and allowed him to sign with Atlanta for essentially pennies.
Cutting Davison without a pre-June 1st designation would save Atlanta $2.2 million while taking on $2.4 million in dead money. Cutting him with a post-June 1st designation would save the Falcons $3.45 million and only hit them with $1.2 million of dead money in 2021, putting Atlanta even closer to the green.
Possible Surprise Cuts:
There aren’t a laundry list of names that stand out as cut candidates, but the Falcons do have a handful that could be released before the 2021 season kicks off. Dante Fowler Jr. is one to watch. Cutting him before June 1st would only save Atlanta $3.2 million and presents a massive $15.3 million dead cap hit. However, if he’s cut with a post-June 1st designation, Atlanta would save $7.9 million. That’s quite a chunk of change, but they would still have to take on $10.6 million in dead money. Other than Fowler, I could possibly see Isaiah Oliver on the chopping block, but he’s still developing and would only save Atlanta around $2 million. I expect both guys to be on the Falcons roster for at least one more season.
This is where Atlanta can create some breathing room. Alex broke down some simple restructuring tactics, and by max restructuring the contracts of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Jake Matthews, and Deion Jones, the Falcons could have close to $40 million to spend this offseason. That is, of course, if Davison is cut and the salary cap ends up being somewhere around $190 million. If Terry Fontenot really wants to roll the dice, he can add Dante Fowler Jr. to the list and push that number closer to $45 million.
UPDATE: With the salary cap set at $182.5 million, they will have about $31 million in space by restructuring Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Jake Matthews, and Deion Jones. That number balloons to $37 million if Dante Fowler Jr. is included.
Regardless of what else happens this offseason, the Falcons will have money to spend. Not only is restructuring necessary to add anything in free agency, Atlanta still has to shed about $15 million in 2021 salary to even be cap compliant. I think with Arthur Smith leading the charge and this roster capable of making one last push, the Falcons will go all-in and clear as much space as possible, hoping to fill a number of holes through free agency.