The Atlanta Falcons had to be hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the 2020 salary cap. Most projections had the number above $200 million, a number much-needed for the team with the 2nd worst cap situation in the NFL. Instead, the cap came in at only $198.2 million, a very modest bump from 2019.
After a flurry of Monday cuts, the Falcons freed up enough cash for one above-average starter. The problem is the team has to address multiple positions, including starters and depth at defensive end, linebacker, corner, safety, running back, corner back, tight end, and probably interior offensive line and wide receiver. It is a lot of spots to hit on in just the draft just on pure numbers.
We are not sure exactly what the team’s situation will look like until after all the roster moves are made, but it will be nearly impossible to be in on any top player. The organization can do only so much as they sit on the 31st most cap space in a league with 32 teams.
The truth is they need to find some starters they can pay like backups. That means some unappealing players. Players that are fast and physical between constant suspensions and nagging injuries. You should really hate every single suggestion on this list. None of these players should be considered long-term options. More likely, Dan Quinn can plug in one of these players for one season before the Falcons can find more cap space in 2021, with or without a new head coach and general manager.
We can start this off with a familiar face guaranteed to fill you with disappointment and possibly rage.
Jalen Collins, CB
I hated this to its core but it has grown on me. Collins has experience in the defense, is familiar with the coaching staff, and could fill in when needed. His long suspension history is problematic, but not as problematic when he will only earn veteran minimum. I was dead-set against bringing back Collins after his last suspension. There is no way the team could rely on him for a multi-year deal, plus he was highly inconsistent when starting. With Desmond Trufant cut, a reunion with Collins could make sense.
If he is a 3rd or 4th corner playing for almost nothing, then I am interested.
Coby Fleener, TE
Fleener was overpaid by the Saints then hit with multiple concussions. We have no update on his injury history, but he said he was still experiencing concussion symptoms nearly two years ago. I would hope the lingering effects have long worn off and he is back in football shape. Fleener last played in 2017, but had 631 receiving yards in 2016.
If healthy, Fleener is qualified to start.
Aldon Smith, DE
Smith announced recently that he was applying for reinstatement. Most wondered why bother, as Smith had so many suspensions in his short NFL career that I could not keep count. He was last cut two years ago, and last played four years ago. Who would kick the tires on Smith? Your answer is a desperate team!
Smith is shockingly only 30 and had 19.5 sacks in his sophomore season. He had double-digit sacks whenever he played all 16 games. His talent is undeniable and worth a shot through training camp.
Rolando McClain, LB
I thought I found Atlanta’s De’Vondre Campbell replacement before realizing he was suspended indefinitely a few months ago. It would have been perfect: A desperate coach taking a chance on a high-ceiling player no other team will touch. Maybe he will get that suspension cleared up but we know that will not happen.
Delanie Walker, TE
I am shocked to see so many formerly elite tight ends with bad injury histories nearly guaranteed to play for the minimum, but here we are. Walker was just cut by the Tennessee Titans. If that news came as a shock, it is because he played in only 8 games in the last two seasons.
If finally healthy, Walker would be a strong addition for Matt Ryan.
I feel like I have an almost personal relationship with Gordon. He single-handedly kept me in the 2013 fantasy playoffs, and single-handedly took me out of 2014, 2017, and because I do not learn my lesson, 2019. Gordon may be one of the most suspended players ever. Like Jalen Collins, you can’t rely on him. Also like Collins, he should cost almost nothing. If not Gordon, the Falcons can try problematic Martavis Bryant. He’s only three years older than Calvin Ridley.
Get me a guy who can embarrass nickels across the league.
Wilkerson really has got it all. A former disruptive force that was, at times, one of the best in the league. Now on the wrong side of 30, Wilkerson was a headache for his coaches in New York, ended his prove-it season in Green Bay on injured reserve, and was just arrested for alcohol and marijuana charges. He is exactly the sort of crazy long-shot the Falcons could use.
Wilkerson could be amazing next to Grady Jarrett and shouldn’t be washed up quite yet.
Only 26, Irving was an up-and-coming defensive tackle before multiple suspensions derailed his career. He retired in protest and stated his intention of launching his own strain of marijuana. Those things do not typically work out and they typically not work out fast so I reviewed his social media. Shockingly, Irving has RTed news that he moved for reinstatement about a month ago, and also RTed this tweet.
Someone must have told him he could make millions in the NFL.
That rounds out the intriguing players that are problematic enough to be in Atlanta’s spending range. These players should be looking for a way back into the NFL and the Falcons should be desperate enough bring some in.