The Falcons could be in for a rude awakening if Terry Fontenot cannot replicate what he did in New Orleans by finding starting-caliber talent that nobody else wants. Falcons fans can also look forward to a disappointing season if the coaching is even remotely close to last year. This negative outlook is caused by just a few decisions from the former regime, namely Thomas Dimitroff.
Jason Fitzgerald, who founded Overthecap.com, did an interesting piece that highlighted the poor standing the Falcons are in right now and in the future. Essentially, Fontenot and Smith were given a half-sunk ship and told to save it. Fitzgerald put a graph together of the most expensive rosters by annual contracts and how much each team is projected to have in cap space next season.
The graphic below shows teams in the bottom right as “all in” while the top left is “playing with house money.” The top right quadrant has “good flexibility to keep growing a competitive team,” while the bottom-left quadrant is teams that have “bottomed out.”
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) September 7, 2021
“The X-axis shows this year roster value based on the APY of all the players on the team while the Y-axis shows next year’s projected salary cap space (and it includes the early estimated for cap carryover).”
“Finally the bottom left is a rough spot. These are teams who don’t have the high valued rosters and do not have good cap projections for next year. These teams are likely a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) situation for two years which can be very difficult if the team winds up flopping this year. The Giants and Rams are right at the edge of this while the Falcons and Eagles are in a bad spot.”
The biggest issue with the Falcons salary cap at this moment has to be the team’s dead money, which is eye-popping and will continue to hold the front office back from manipulating the personnel how they want. The dead cap figure wasn’t nearly as much of a problem until Julio Jones was traded. Atlanta currently has $22 million in dead cap, but the most bothering part is Jones and Desmond Trufant making up about $14 million of that $22 million. It doesn’t get much better next year either, as the former All-Pro receiver’s dead cap figure is $15.5 million in 2022.
It isn’t just the contracts currently on the books of former players either; it is current players’ contracts — namely, Matt Ryan. He’s been pointed at his entire career as the reason the Falcons haven’t succeeded at the highest level, which couldn’t be any further from the truth. It has already been made clear the team will roll with the veteran quarterback this season, in part, due to his incredibly massive dead cap hit. Trading him post-June 1 would leave $24.9 million in dead money this year and $40.5 million in 2022.
Getting rid of Matt Ryan isn’t the answer because reaching the playoffs is much easier with someone of his pedigree versus a rookie quarterback. This isn’t really an overreaction as most betting outlets and analysts have the Falcons missing the playoffs this year, and it’s not particularly close either. The only way this financial misery can be overcome is by coaching and player acquisition.
Arthur Smith will handle the brunt of the workload in this aspect, but Terry Fontenot is equally responsible for giving Smith better players than Thomas Dimitroff ever gave Dan Quinn. The players on the roster aren’t scaring anyone, and next year won’t be much different, but with superior coaching and game planning, they can make the postseason.