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Can the Falcons afford to keep their team together? Let’s take a look

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As with many things in life, it depends.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the talk about the Falcons having their deepest roster in years (and maybe ever), I thought it would be interesting to see if the Falcons could possibly afford to keep the majority of their starters into the foreseeable future.

Using numbers from OverTheCap.com, I put together some numbers to contemplate along with moves that the team may need to make. Obviously, there are FAR more moves than could reasonably be covered here, but this is to open up the conversation at minimum. Let’s start with where the Falcons key players stand now in relation to the cap.

Existing cap numbers

Existing cap numbers

As for these charts, the cells in the faint orange color indicate the years where a player can be cut and it will reduce their cap hit. As you can see, the Falcons have quite a few players who they have some flexibility with, which will help when it comes time to keep key guys around.

The cells in red indicate a cut in the scenario along with the remaining dead money that person will cost in that year. The cells in green indicate potential “trouble” years where a player’s cap hit is higher than ideal and/or their age and end of contract could make them a potential cap casualty.

Scenario 1

Scenario 1

First, let’s get this out of the way: Matt Ryan is going to get paid, as you’ll see in my assumptions below. More than likely, he’ll get a contract slightly bigger than the one Derek Carr recently got and it could go north of that depending on the money the Lions end up paying to Matt Stafford. I’m figuring his cap hit is going to be in the 25M/yr range, as that’s a little north of the cap hits from the Carr contract.

For guys like Julio Jones, Alex Mack, Ryan Schraeder, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Andy Levitre, we’re going to let their contracts ride out. We’re doing this either because 1) they recently signed a contract and/or 2) by the time their existing contract expires, they will be at or near the point the team will probably want to move on.

Starting on offense, in this scenario, it just doesn’t seem possible to pay both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, so I opted to keep Freeman. Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to pay Sanu, Hardy and Gabriel, so I opted to keep the two younger players - cutting Sanu in 2019. Extending Austin Hooper (with Jimmy Graham like numbers) is projecting a bit, but all of this is going under a “best case scenario” anyhow.

On the defensive side, we cut Shelby in 2019 to make some cap room, though he could be a cap casualty as early as next year. Jack Crawford is another potential cap cut, depending on how he plays this year.

Assuming Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett continue their upwards trend, they’ll both command a pretty penny - reflected in both scenarios. Simply put: the Falcons can’t let either of these guys walk if they truly continue to get better.

Given the cap restrictions you can see here, I opted to not keep Poe - even if I’d love to. The numbers would be too high to justify.

As for our young guys, keeping Jones, Campbell, Neal and Riley are no-brainers so long as they continue to develop and/or live up to our expectations. I do think the team will use the 2nd round tender on Ricardo Allen, but may opt to let him walk the following year - especially if someone like Demonte Kazee can mature in the coming year.

Scenario 2

Scenario 2

In this scenario, the only change is showing the potential of keeping Coleman and cutting Devonta in his first cap-heavy year of 2020. Again, I just can’t envision a scenario where both guys are retained over the long-haul.

Conclusions

To be honest, I was hoping I would come to some different conclusions, but this is a good problem to have. There’s also the assumption that many of these players are going to pan out and command top salaries. There’s a very strong likelihood that not all of these guys are going to live up to expectations, and these numbers will adjust accordingly. It does, however, highlight that building and maintaining a top-notch roster is extremely difficult when you have to wrestle with the salary cap.

Either way, the numbers are in front of you now and you can begin speculating on how you would do things differently. Let us know how you might go about maintaining the cap and who you would be willing to let go in order to do so.