The Falcons currently have enough cap room to go after one or two mid-tier free agents, like say an Ed Dickson at tight end or a Tom Johnson at defensive tackle, before they need to either dip out or free up some real space. That’s partly why they’ve been so quiet before and after surprising everyone by signing guard Brandon Fusco.
The Falcons, it should be noted, have a baseline level of interest in overspending in free agency, and that level is very low. This puts them in with teams like the Patriots and Steelers, who prefer to be players after the big dollars have already flown around, but in years past they’ve still been good for one or two team-building splashes like Alex Mack and Dontari Poe. This year they’ve been reported to be largely uninterested in the players out there, which may or may not be a front. They are also genuinely limited in the dollars they currently have to spend.
A large part of their situation can be traced to Matt Ryan and Jake Matthews. The two will combine to cost the Falcons north of $35 million in 2018, which are reasonable numbers given their positions, talent, and production, but are putting a little bit of a squeeze on the team alongside their other big money contracts. Extending both would free up cap space in 2018—potentially a lot of cap space—which would in turn allow the Falcons to be players in the second wave of free agency, or over the summer when there’s surprise cuts and players with surprisingly dead markets to consider.
The problem is that it’s not clear the Falcons will be able to get either extension done in the near-term, especially Ryan’s. Quarterback contracts tend to be big and complex even when you don’t have Kirk Cousins crashing in and getting nearly $30 million per year guaranteed, and Tom Condon can’t very well negotiate a tiny deal for Ryan and then turn around and tell his other clients that he’s going to maximize their earnings. It’ll get done, but it may not be as soon as anyone wants.
So remember that as the Falcons continue to sniff around the Dicksons and Johnsons (uh) of the free agent world, and remember that solutions to a handful of their most pressing roster issues likely won’t come until April’s draft or even later. It’ll do our collective sanity some good to keep it in mind.