Often, when we talk about salary cap space in the NFL, we do so only taking into account where our own team stands - without considering where we fit in the broader picture of the entire NFL. This is an important exercise because when it comes to free agency, we need to understand where we stand compared to other teams. If you have a tremendous amount of space, but are only in the middle of the pack league-wide, it could limit your ability to be active in free agency as other teams have more space to out-bid you.
For 2015, the Falcons currently have between 32 and 33 Million dollars of cap space, based on which source you use. While that seems like a good bit of space - and it is - where does it put the Falcons league-wide?
Here's a chart - based on numbers from OverTheCap.com - that shows where the Falcons currently rank:
|Team||Salary Cap Space||Ranking|
|New York Jets||$50,014,474||4|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||$33,442,618||8|
|Green Bay Packers||$32,507,792||10|
As you can see, the Falcons are in good shape, but are still only 9th in the league for overall cap space. What's notable, though, is that they are one of the few teams in this list that are settled at the QB position. But what does this mean for the Falcons?
Competition for Pass Rushers
First and foremost, almost all Atlanta fans agree that the Falcons need to grab multiple pass rushers this year. Most agree that means we need to draft at least one player while also looking to sign one or more in free agency. While there are several free agents available (guys like Graham, Sheard, McPhee and Orakpo), it's likely that several of the teams in front of us are also interested in grabbing some of these guys.
What this means for the Falcons is that a guy like McPhee is likely going to demand a high dollar contract. While we can compete with the teams in front of us, it's quite possible that a team like Jacksonville or Oakland can set a price tag that is not reasonable for the Falcons to compete against. This will possibly relegate the Falcons to looking at the lower-cost options like Sheard or Orakpo.
If you look at the teams ahead of the Falcons, only one jumps out as having stability at the QB position: the Indianapolis Colts. While the Jaguars and Raiders have promising young QBs, they are far from settled and the second year for Carr and Bortles will tell the full story. And as for yours truly, I don't consider Andy Dalton to be a true "franchise QB" in the NFL.
What this means for the Falcons is important. The teams we will be competing against for the top free agents will look at the composition of the team - and their ability to win games immediately - and realize the Falcons have several key positions populated with quality starters, including Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. While players want to get paid, they also want to win. From that standpoint, the Falcons may be more appealing than several of the teams with more money to offer. While it's not a primary factor, it could be a deciding factor if the offers are within the same range.
With all of that said, I do believe the Falcons will be aggressive in free agency this year. The space they've freed up, along with the numerous positional needs on the team, speak to a more active off-season than in years past. What do you think about the Falcons cap space and the outlook of free agency?