Financial incentives behind Falcons decision to release Matt Gono

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A couple of weeks ago, the Falcons and offensive lineman Matt Gono mutually agreed to part ways. Gono initially served as the team’s swing tackle behind Kaleb McGary and Jake Matthews, but he was also supposed to compete with Jalen Mayfield for the starting job at left guard.

Unfortunately, Gono showed up to training camp last offseason in a neck brace, which Talkin’ Birdy’s Matt Karoly attributed to a herniated disc injury. Gono only started four games in 2020 and was unable to make it on the field in 2021 after the Falcons placed a second-round tender on him. I figured the Falcons were just not interested in Gono because of the injury, but that doesn’t seem to be the motivation for the release.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap shed light on the situation from a financial standpoint, which really highlights precisely why the Falcons decided to go in a different direction.

Gono falls into the rare category that impacts a handful of players every year. Gono had offseason surgery last year and never recovered from the injury. He spent the entire year on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the Falcons. Players who are in their final contract year and spend the entire season on the PUP list (or NFI list or a few other reserve lists) will have their contracts toll to the following season preventing the player from being a free agent.

With Gono’s contract tolling the Falcons would have had to account for $3.384 million on the 2022 salary cap for him if they did not release him. The 2nd round tender may have been a mistake in the first place in 2021 and there would be no logical reason, especially given the Falcons cap situation, to carry him while trying to come up with a lower number that fit more in with their salary cap. It is possible that this is what Atlanta tried to do this past week and when they did not come to an agreement just terminated the contract. Gono’s contract could still be claimed by another team on waivers.

The Falcons could’ve just let the contract expire, but Fitzgerald goes on to explain that Atlanta wasn’t giving up a potential compensatory pick by releasing Gono; they were instead clearing the books for the 2022 season. This makes sense as the Falcons are in poor standing with the salary cap. Falcons fans can expect Fontenot to acquire someone similar to Gono to fill the swing tackle role, but it could come from the draft in an attempt to fill McGary’s spot in 2023.

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