The easiest way for the Falcons to create the necessary cap space to sign the 2021 draft class is to restructure Grady Jarrett‘s contract, which needs no agreement from Jarrett’s camp. A max restructure would create $6.75 million in cap space — just under the $7-8 million needed to sign the rookies.
It makes sense in the short-term outlook, especially for fans who don’t want to see Julio Jones traded. Terry Fontenot needs enough to sign the draft class and a cushion for any other veteran free agents he deems worthy of bringing in. The easiest path to cap relief has to be a restructure, but extending Jarrett would accomplish the same goal while retaining by far the best defensive piece the Falcons have. Jeff Schultz of The Athletic reported that the Falcons have not had any discussions with Todd France, Jarrett’s agent, about reworking his contract in any way.
The Falcons are not going to cut a bunch of starters to create that $7-8 million in cap space. Sources say there are only two — yes, two — players they consider viable options to remedy the issue: Grady Jarrett or Julio Jones.
Jarrett, a leader and their best defensive player, has a 2021 cap hit of $20.833 million (third highest behind Ryan and Jones). The club wants to keep him long-term, so a contract restructure or extension is on the table. Either would drop his cap number significantly. But the Falcons have yet to approach Jarrett’s camp about a new deal. It doesn’t mean they won’t, but Jarrett’s agent, Todd France, is one of the best around and a tough negotiator, and it’s not going to be an easy deal to get done. If the expectation is to redo Jarrett quickly so the draft picks can be signed before training camp, it would seem odd that subject hasn’t even been broached, yet. Unless Jarrett isn’t the top option.
Extending Jarrett would lessen the financial burdens in 2021 and 2022, but it has to be the second option as trading Julio Jones is the first, according to the reports from Schultz. If trading the bloated contract doesn’t work out, Fontenot can always restructure Jarrett’s contract and create significant cap space.
Extensions with first-year regimes can sometimes be difficult, especially this late into the offseason, but it’s not impossible. Lions GM Brad Holmes was able to sign center Frank Ragnow to an extension in early May, which puts him under contract with the team through 2026. The reported details included $52 million in new money, including $42 million in guarantees.
My best guess would be Fontenot continues to seek out partners for a Julio Jones trade and eventually restructures Jarrett in early-to-mid June to sign the rookie class before mandatory minicamp. Fontenot knows he can always restructure Jarrett’s contract, so it’ll be used as insurance if the preferred path isn’t available.
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