In his first offseason as general manager, Terry Fontenot has made very few ripples in the pond. Outside of releasing Ricardo Allen, Allen Bailey, and James Carpenter — all who were expected to be cap casualties — and restructuring Jake Matthews, Fontenot hasn’t created any cap space for Atlanta. In fact, he’s spent some of those precious dollars, signing a flurry of special team contributors to ERFA deals, including the ascending pair of Younghoe Koo and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner — granted, all are veteran minimum contracts.
Today, the Falcons are about $7-8 million over the cap with those recent transactions, so expect more restructures and releases throughout the coming days.
The two largest cap hits are Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, which are possible restructure candidates and would provide the most cap relief. If Fontenot were to restructure all of Ryan’s $21.925 million base salary, it would drop his cap hit all the way down to $26.295 million, getting the Falcons below the $182.5 million cap. Restructuring all of Julio’s base salary would create about $10 million in cap space. His $23 million cap hit this season would drop to $13.5 million if Fontenot converted the entire $14.225 million base salary. However, in those fictitious contracts, the new dead money would be so immoveable that the two would be tied to Atlanta through 2023.
Another candidate is Grady Jarrett, who has the third-highest cap hit in 2021. According to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, Fontenot nor anyone from the organization has approached Jarrett about a restructure.
Falcons, in need of salary cap relief, haven't yet approached DT Grady Jarrett about contract restructure or extension. He's an ideal candidate for either. Jarrett's $20.833 mil cap 2021 hit is third highest on team behind Matt Ryan ($40.9m), Julio Jones ($23.05m) @TheAthletic
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) March 11, 2021
Restructuring the aging pair of Ryan and Julio is more difficult than a prime Jarrett, who should be the central building block of the defense. The former Clemson Tiger is clearly going to be a part of whatever Fontenot and Arthur Smith have in store for this franchise, so it’s not a matter of if, but when they choose to restructure him. Aaron Freeman pointed out an interesting tidbit from Jarrett’s contract. Language essentially saying that the team doesn’t need to approach him about a restructure; they could just restructure his contract and simply inform him.
Do they have to approach him about a restructure at all due to “automatic conversion” language built into the contract? pic.twitter.com/T7wJK7CuN0
— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) March 11, 2021
A restructure seems in order, but when is the question, and the regime could be waiting for other dominos to fall before pulling this particular trigger. An extension could even be a possibility this offseason, though it would be a lot for a first-year regime. Committing more guaranteed money to someone like Grady Jarrett is a no-brainer, so the restructure seems like a conducive way to relieve quite a bit of cap.