With free agency just weeks away, Atlanta Falcons fans near and far are trying to prognosticate as to how exactly the team is going to approach the process.
In some years, the team opens its wallet to reel in a big fish or two. In other years, they stand pat and try to focus on paying and developing the roster at hand.
For a while, it seemed 2019 could've gone either way, but we now have an indication we may be headed into an offseason of the latter. Jason Butt at The Athletic reports that the Falcons may be standing pat from pursuing any big names in free agency, the logical conclusion of their stated desire to re-sign Grady Jarrett, give Julio Jones a new contract, and keep Vic Beasley around at $12.8 million.
From now until the draft, the Falcons will have to decide the best way to attack its pass rush and cornerback voids. Free agency could aid with some complementary pieces, considering a major splash isn’t expected at this time.
The expectation for the team now, a bitter pill we must all swallow, is that the Falcons may not make any major additions to this team until the draft. That would mark a trend, as the Falcons did much the same heading into 2018.
The salary cap is not in a good place. Considering the franchise tag is $13.9 million for defensive tackles, the team may have to fit that on there for Grady Jarrett should a long-term deal not come to fruition before the start of free agency.
If that indeed is the plan, the Falcons will then only have about $9.7 million in free space to use. Some of that will need to go to the draft class, and the team does like its rainy day fund to have around for the season.
And we haven’t even gotten to Julio Jones’ major contract renegotiations the team punted to this offseason. This team might be strapped for cash despite clearing space, and while we spent the early weeks of the offseason imagining what the Falcons might do with Beasley’s salary and the space they’re clearing, it now appears our imaginations were too vivid.
Now, we’ll probably have a restructure or two down the road, which could free up some change. Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu, Desmond Trufant, Brandon Fusco and even Devonta Freeman could all be asked to take minor pay cuts to make the finances easier on the team.
Ryan Schraeder’s contract remains a topic of conversation, if only because he’ll be making starter’s money with no confirmed starting job this season. Ty Sambrailo seems to be the team’s top pick right now for the right tackle spot, so Schraeder will probably at least have his contract adjusted.
Paying that much for what would be swing tackle help, considering the other needs on the roster, would be supreme negligence. It would also not be fair to Schraeder to keep him from finding a starting job elsewhere at a time of the year where he could recoup his salary.
The Falcons’ roster is in relatively good shape outside of the trenches, and they’ll probably be able to agree to a handful of small veteran depth deals like they did last spring. But recent history shows that, when they do invest in new March faces under Quinn (Mack, Sanu, Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn), it tends to go well. The fact that they may not do that this time around, at least in a major way, is a bit of a bummer.
The team needs a new definitive defensive end, a new guard or two on the OL, some secondary help and depth elsewhere. You’d hope March would help with the first few parts, but we might just get “depth elsewhere.”
It’s fair to get a little nervous as to how this plan may go.