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Matt Ryan’s new extension may allow the Falcons to dip back into the free agent market

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We’re expecting a smaller cap number for 2018, though we don’t yet know or sure.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve waited months for the inevitable Matt Ryan contract extension, and now it is complete. We don’t know the specifics of the deal just yet, but he’s getting five years, an annual average of $30 million, and he’s probably going to buy himself a boat.

What we we’re most eager to see for the short-term is what this does for Ryan’s 2018 cap number. Ryan was set to make over $20 million, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that the new deal will take a little pressure off the Falcons’ cap, which was one of the league’s tightest heading into the draft. I’ve seen estimates from $3 million to $7 million in savings, but as far as I’m aware, all of those are guesses.

What might they do with that money? It may turn out to be a summer slush fund for signing those veterans the team is fond of adding in July and August, or it may be for something more significant. There are some decent fourth safeties on the market right now, and if the Falcons wanted to complete their defensive tackle rotation, they could toss some money toward Courtney Upshaw or (dare I dream) Johnathan Hankins to get that done. At minimum, this gives the team the option to make some May improvements before they ever kick off OTAs and minicamps, and those obvious upgrades aren’t necessarily going to be available two or three months from now.

We’ll know within a couple of days just how much room the Falcons are freeing up with this extension, I’d wager, and then we’ll need to wait for them to use it. I’ll go ahead and predict there’s a new defensive tackle in town by the time May is over.