For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been puzzled about the lack of movement on contract talks and cuts for the Atlanta Falcons. This is traditionally a team that likes to make swift moves and then sit back while other teams unload players and make signings, but they’ve been unusually quiet thus far.
Consider that a year ago, the Falcons were knee deep in what turned out to be lengthy negotiations with Grady Jarrett’s representation by this time. They also had already made cuts, doing so back near the beginning of February 2019. What gives?
The problem is that I haven’t been thinking of the lack of moves—and the lack of any contract progress for guys like Austin Hooper—as stemming from the larger questions surrounding the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. While those negotiations are up in the air, teams aren’t sure where they stand on the ability to designate post-June 1 cuts, aren’t exactly sure of cap space or roster sizes and the like, and are generally facing enough uncertainty to make them hesitate before making costly cuts or re-signings.
That definitely extends to the Falcons, who appeared on the brink of cutting Devonta Freeman over a week ago, but have yet to actually do anything. It probably also explains why Atlanta hasn’t even offered Hooper a contract yet when they’re virtually a lock to do so before free agency opens. The question is how long they can sit on those moves when there is no indication a deal is going to get done before the start of free agency.
Consider the moves that have to be made. Atlanta has to clear up significant cap space if they’re going after a veteran pass rusher, as the rumors hold they will, and they still likely want to bring back a crop of impending in-house free agents that includes De’Vondre Campbell, Adrian Clayborn, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and Tyeler Davison. Waiting until free agency is upon us to make those moves doesn’t create any less cap space, but it does mean tighter timelines for legal tampering and ultimately negotiations with in-house free agents.
Unfortunately, an extended stalemate promises to create significant uncertainty for teams and players alike, and it may make teams less willing to dole out major, long-term contracts this offseason. For the Falcons, who urgently need to make moves and upgrade the roster in order to contend in what might be Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff’s final year in Atlanta, that kind of uncertainty probably isn’t going to lead to any kinds of good outcomes.