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Arthur Blank: Falcons might not have the cap space to keep Austin Hooper

While the team may be steadfastly claiming they are not in cap hell, the owner sounds prepared to lose a marquee player.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Falcons loudly proclaimed just a month ago that the team was not in cap hell. The NFL is notorious for having a very soft cap that teams like the New Orleans Saints have expertly navigated for years.

In fact, just this offseason Saints general manager Mickey Loomis discussed the team’s upcoming roster decisions by saying, “There’s challenges when you’re not successful, and there’s challenges when you are successful. I prefer the latter.” The Saints are trying to keep together the spoils of a fantastic 2017 draft class, including Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, and Alex Anzalone.

The Falcons have similar cap problems, except Atlanta did not win 13 games. Atlanta did not make the playoffs. Atlanta does not have multiple players they need to keep. There is only one player they need to keep, and team owner Arthur Blank does not sound optimistic that player will remain a Falcon for life. In fact, Blank sounds ready to lose him because of the salary cap.

Via ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.

“I think he’s a young, ascending player, and he has performed at a very high level for us. I think he’s worthy, certainly, of a new contract based on market. Whether that fits in with us and our salary cap remains to be seen.”

Thomas Dimitroff has shaken out some additional cap space with restructures this offseason but has done a poor job in planning for the future. The Falcons are shockingly short on cap space despite back-to-back 7-9 seasons. The Saints have cap problems but they have competed.

Spotrac has estimated Hooper is worth $9.9 million per year, predicting he will eclipse Travis Kelce’s salary for something near 5 years and $50 million. That salary is worth it for a player that has become one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets, especially with Mohamed Sanu gone. But when you overpay players like Jamon Brown, Ty Sambrailo, and James Carpenter, there are repercussions. The problem is the Falcons have not planned well on affording one of the league’s top tight ends.