It’s no secret that the Falcons have had an abysmal 2018 season. Injuries gutted key parts of the offense and defense early in the season, and Atlanta was simply never able to recover. The poor year has also exposed some “weak links” on the roster, which could provide some interesting/difficult decisions for the Falcons front office in the 2019 offseason. Due to some savvy contract construction and other quirks, Atlanta has an opportunity to move on from some big-name players—and save a ton of cap space in doing so.
The Falcons are likely to shake up the roster in 2019. With nine draft picks available including seven in the top five rounds, the team has an opportunity to stuff the depth chart with young talent. That might mean some fringe players getting the ax to make room for rookies, but it could also give Atlanta enough confidence to move on from a few highly-priced veterans.
The Falcons are going to be walking into 2019 with an estimated $26M in cap space. A big chunk of that is likely to go to paying star DT Grady Jarrett, but that could still leave another $12M or so for the team to play around with. Other than Jarrett and perhaps Tevin Coleman, there simply aren’t many big-ticket players the Falcons need to worry about re-signing from their own FAs. While $12M is a decent amount of space, it’s not really enough for Atlanta to be a major player in free agency.
That brings us to the big question: who are the most likely players to get cut, for cap-related reasons or otherwise? Three big names immediately spring to mind: CB Robert Alford, EDGE Vic Beasley, and RT Ryan Schraeder. Each has seen large dips in their play in 2018, and each is going to be getting a giant paycheck in 2019. A case could be made for all three leaving, but which is the most likely to get cut this offseason?
Let’s take a closer look at each of their contract situations to determine just how much the Falcons could save by moving on.
CB Robert Alford
2019 Cap Hit: $9.1M
2019 Cap Savings if cut: $8.5M
2019 Dead Cap: $600K
Alford, a stalwart in the secondary in 2016-17, has unfortunately experienced a pretty significant drop in play in 2018. He’s reverted to a lot of bad habits this season, and his ability to keep up with more athletic receivers has taken a hit. It’s quite possible that an injury earlier in the season has affected Alford more than the team is letting on, but all we have to go off of is Alford’s abysmal play over the past eight games.
Unfortunately for Alford, his contract is structured in such a way that he’s a ridiculously easy cut this offseason. His $9.1M cap hit is high for a CB2, but it would’ve been worth it had he continued to play like a CB1 (similar to 2016 and 2017). The Falcons would save $8.5M in both 2019 and 2020 by moving on, with only $600K in dead cap in each year. Regardless of your feelings about Alford, that’s a lot of savings with almost no penalty.
Alford has shown some potential in the slot, and we’ve seen several CBs prolong their NFL careers by making that transition. With Isaiah Oliver an outside-only guy, it would be prudent for the Falcons to test out that lineup over the final four games. Whether or not Alford looks any better on the inside could determine his fate in 2019 and beyond.
EDGE Vic Beasley
2019 Cap Hit: $12.8M
2019 Cap Savings if cut: $12.8M
2019 Dead Cap: None
Oh, Beasley, what could have been. The 2016 All Pro year will always be a fond memory. Unfortunately, outside of 2016, Beasley has oscillated between “meh” and “ghost”. His athletic ability is impressive, but he’s failed to develop any moves as a pass rusher and his tackling is downright atrocious. That makes his pathway to a productive NFL career—either at EDGE or perhaps at SLB—pretty difficult to fathom.
Beasley’s fifth-year option is perhaps the most straightforward of all the contracts. It’s fully guaranteed at the start of the new league year (aka when free agency kicks off in March 2019), and also guaranteed for injury if he were to suffer something serious between now and the end of the 2018 season. Otherwise, you can cut him before March 2019 with absolutely no penalty. That equals out to a ridiculous $12.8M in cap savings. Beasley clearly isn’t worth anything near that, and the Falcons could try to re-negotiate a better deal with Beasley after they cut him. Should they? Probably not, but it is an option.
The only upside for Beasley is that he’s still young, and he does have that one ridiculous 2016 season to his name. It’s possible that the right coach could maybe coax better play out of him. Other than those slim hopes, there’s really no reason that Beasley should stick around next season.
RT Ryan Schraeder
2019 Cap Hit: $7.75M
2019 Cap Savings if cut: $3.95M
2019 Dead Cap: $3.8M
Ryan Schraeder has been a great UDFA find for this team, and he really did look like one of the NFL’s best right tackles in 2016. Unfortunately, he’s never quite been the same since his concussion, and Schraeder has been exposed in 2018 as a liability on the offensive line. He’s still physically imposing at 6’8, but his athletic ability has always been a weakness—a weakness that is now being exploited every single week by opposing defenses.
Schraeder’s contract is a bit more complicated than the other two. He restructured his deal in 2017 to clear some cap space, which spread out a lot of signing bonus into the remaining years of his contract. However, the Falcons could free up $3.95M by cutting Schraeder in 2019. That would leave a considerable amount of dead cap—approximately $3.8M. Making him a post-June 1st cut could alleviate some of that, as would waiting to cut him until 2020.
Schraeder’s situation is perhaps the most difficult, as the Falcons don’t have anyone else behind him on the depth chart and it’s not exactly easy to find quality offensive tackles in the NFL. If this dip in play is injury-related, perhaps the team brings in a competitive swing tackle to compete with Schraeder in camp to see if he can show any improvement. If it’s simply a case of Schraeder slowing down, then Atlanta could be in a difficult spot at right tackle.
Who’s it gonna be?
There are clear cases for any of the three to get cut in 2019. For reference, if the Falcons decided to part ways with all three, they would save a combined $25.25M in cap space for the 2019 season. That, plus the estimated $12M they’ll have after finalizing Jarrett’s deal, leaves Atlanta with a whopping $37.25M heading into free agency. While not a gigantic amount, that’s more than enough for the Falcons to be active in the bidding for a big addition or two.
But, for this exercise, you have to pick just one. Vote in the poll below, and give us your thoughts on who is most likely to be cut in the comments.
Who is the most likely cap casualty in 2019?
This poll is closed
CB Robert Alford
EDGE Vic Beasley
RT Ryan Schraeder