Should Falcons target offensive or defensive free agents with cap savings from Julio Jones trade?

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The Julio Jones trade created much-needed cap space to sign the Falcons 2021 rookie class. However, I’ve already discussed it wasn’t the only way Terry Fontenot could’ve created the cap space — i.e., Julio Jones restructure, Grady Jarrett extension/restructure, etc. Regardless, Jones is now in Tennessee, and Atlanta has enough money to sign their rookie class, but there is an excess of anywhere between $7.75 million and $9.03 million after signing the 2021 draft class.

Lord knows there are plenty of holes on this roster, so that extra cash is greatly appreciated inside the organization. Still, I brought up a point that I think is fair: should Terry Fontenot roll over the cap savings from the Julio Jones trade to 2022?

A $15.5 million dead cap hit in 2022 is the only evidence I need to make my point. The NFL and the NFLPA have already agreed to a salary cap ceiling of $208.2 million for the 2022 season. If it gets there, that would be a 14 percent increase over the 2021 cap of $182.5 million.

Jones’s dead cap hit is joined by Matt Ryan‘s $48.662 million cap hit, which accounts for 23.37% of the team’s salary cap. According to Spotrac, the Falcons are estimated to have $15.6 million in cap space for 2022, with 48 active players under contract. To be more flexible in competing for future years, it would behoove Fontenot to roll over the savings from this blockbuster trade. This would allow more breathing room when negotiating deals for Calvin Ridley and Grady Jarrett while giving Fontenot a chance to make more free-agent acquisitions without restructuring every significant contract to do so.

Playing devil’s advocate, I wanted to explore which side of the ball needed reinforcements more if Fontenot were to dip into free agency with his newfound cap space. Most people reading this are already answering in their heads, defense, and they’d be right. But, it’s not that simple if you base it on the availability of free agents. SportsTalkATL’s Jake Gordon has already constructed a free agent big board of those who can still help this team and are available. 80% of those players play defense; the full list is below.

10. IOL Trai Turner
9. S Kenny Vaccaro
8. RB Le’Veon Bell
7. CB Steven Nelson
6. IDL Geno Atkins
5. IDL Jurrell Casey
4. EDGE Melvin Ingram III
3. CB Brian Poole
2. S Malik Hooker
1. EDGE Justin Houston


His list would point towards the defensive side of the ball, but Jake is a bit bias given he’s writing specifically for the Falcons — this isn’t the top ten list of free agents available, just those at positions of need for Atlanta. NFLTR has an ongoing list of free agents left on the market that constantly updates the top 100 available, but only nine of their top 25 free agents are on the offensive side of the ball.

So not only do the Falcons need more help on defense, but the best free agents still available are mostly defensive players. It would behoove Fontenot to give Dean Pees another piece on defense given the team’s needs and the market availability. In my opinion, a starting-caliber left guard would add more value than any other position would, but the position was extremely top-heavy in this free-agent class — anyone worth signing was picked up almost immediately. I still mainly advocate for rolling over as much cap as possible because none of the free agents can make that much of a difference outside of Justin Houston.

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