If you’re paying close attention to the Falcons offseason, you have noticed they barely have enough money to sign their incoming rookie class. So why are their so many articles coming out about potential free agent signings Atlanta should make?
I admit most of the writers of those articles are sipping on something because the odds of players like Eric Berry and Ndamukong Suh signing one-year deals with the Falcons are about the same as Tony Romo winning the Byron Nelson this weekend. Even though they are unsigned, they are still borderline star players and will be looking to be paid like it.
How the Falcons can create cap space
I’ve talked about this briefly before, but the Falcons still have a couple of ways to maneuver the salary cap. The most painless version would be by finding common ground with Grady Jarrett and inking him to a long-term contract.
The Falcons star defensive tackle has signed his franchise tender for next season paying him over $15.2 million. The front office now has until July 15th to work out an extension with him before he plays 2019 at that number. By working out a deal with Jarrett, the Falcons can find ways to significantly lower his cap number for the upcoming season, thus giving the team several more million to spend on free agents.
Will it be enough to land Suh? Only if Suh has an addiction to Coke and loves the Georgia Aquarium. The former All-Pro defensive tackle signed for one-year, $14 million in 2018. He may not be the superstar he once was, but he’s going to be looking for at least $10 million annually on his next contract; which will be nearly impossible for the Falcons to meet.
More realistic options are players like Shane Ray, whose fifth-year option was declined by the Broncos; Muhammed Wilkerson, who played on a one-year deal for $5 million last season, and Morris Claiborne – another cornerback that could serve as a depth piece in Atlanta’s secondary.
The front office is also working on extending Julio Jones. This deal is not as pertinent because Jones remains under contract through 2020, but the Falcons have made it known they want to keep him happy and make him a Falcon for life. The most recent reports suggest the two sides aren’t far away from an agreement; which would likely allow Atlanta to shave a bit off the $13.4 million they owe him in 2019.
The Falcons could also pinch pennies by squeezing the fat off their roster following the draft – something that began with the release of Brandon Fusco. The unfortunate part is there aren’t many options for them to let go at this point and none that would free up substantial dollars.
Atlanta may not be done in free agency, but they are going to have to get creative to make room under the salary cap. Keep in mind; the Falcons will also want to have a little space left in case they have to make moves during the season. If they are fortunate to restructure the contracts of both Jarret and Jones, they may have enough cash for one more splash this offseason.