Last offseason, the NFL salary cap did something it has never done — drop. An unprecedented drop of nearly $20 million from 2020 to 2021 forced many teams to part ways with players they hadn’t envisioned doing in the name of cap savings.
Now, the 2022 salary cap is expected to rise past the previous 2020 cap to $208.2 million with the new broadcasting rights. However, that won’t change the annual tradition of cap casualties. Pro Football Focus generated a list of potential cut candidates for every NFL team, and several should interest the Falcons if they do indeed hit free agency.
Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Devon Kennard
Though his story is inspiring, Kennard hasn’t quite lived up to the contract he signed with Arizona a couple of years ago. The Falcons could use affordable depth at the EDGE position, and Kennard can be that signing.
Chicago Bears: DL Eddie Goldman
Goldman made news some time ago when he opted out of the 2020 season then refused to get the vaccine, which is a roadblock for a potential Falcons signing. Still, he’s a space-eating nose tackle that can absorb double teams. Goldman can still collapse the pocket at times and really started to regain form in the latter half of 2021.
Cincinatti Bengals: CB Trae Waynes
Waynes was a serious disappointment in Cincinnati. He suffered a season-ending injury in 2020 and only played 243 snaps in 2021. I doubt the Bengals commit to his salary in 2022, so the Falcons could be in a position to buy low on a potential high-upside free agent.
Cleveland Browns: TE Austin Hooper
Jarvis Landry is also on the chopping block, but I expect Hooper to be released before Cleveland makes a decision on the former LSU Tiger. Hooper and Matt Ryan have a connection, and the Falcons absolutely have a need at tight end. A reunion seems in order.
Dallas Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown
Brown played a career-high 1,046 snaps with some of the best production of his career. Brown could be a similar signing as Fabian Moreau was last offseason. Brown wasn’t bad by any means, but Dallas has some impending free agents they’d like to re-sign, so he could indeed be a cap casualty.
Detroit Lions: EDGE Trey Flowers
Flowers signed a massive deal in 2019 that totaled $90 million, which seemed great at first but has slowly turned into a bad contract. He doesn’t match up with Detroit’s timeline right now and could bolster a bare EDGE room in Atlanta.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Malcom Brown
Jacksonville traded for Brown in 2021 after the Saints were expected to cut him to save cap dollars. It didn’t turn out well, though. Much like the rest of the Jaguars, Brown had the worst year of his career. Due to the connection to Terry Fontenot from New Orleans, Brown makes sense as a cheap piece with high upside for a defensive front that desperately needs more talent in Atlanta.
New Orleans Saints: CB Bradley Roby
After trading a third-round pick for Roby, the Saints could end up cutting him after he logged less than 400 snaps this season. He has experience playing in the slot and on the boundary, so the Falcons could feel comfortable giving him a more lucrative deal than some of these other potential cut candidates.
New York Jets: DL Sheldon Rankins
Rankins was outstanding during his time in New Orleans, but he didn’t live up to expectations in 2021 with the Jets. Similarly to Brown, his connection with Fontneot could generate interest from the Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers: EDGE Dee Ford
Ford signed an $85 million deal over five years in 2019, but injuries have derailed his career. A neck injury could actually end it, but if he’s still healthy enough to strap it up, the Falcons could swoop in and buy low on a former elite EDGE defender.