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What did recent cuts do for the Falcons salary cap woes?

Hint: It helped, but don’t expect any big spending.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this season it was clear the Falcons would have to make several moves just to be under the 2020 salary cap. Some of the projected moves have happened (Stocker, Sambrailo) while others have surprised (Trufant).

Let’s take a look at how much salary cap space the team freed up with the announced cuts.

Devonta Freeman

Dead money: $6M, 2020 Salary cap savings: $3.5M

Many would argue that Freeman’s contract was way too rich when it was given and his production the last few years would certainly back that up. After injuries disrupted both his 2017 and 2018 seasons, Freeman came back in 2019 and struggled to produce at a consistently high level.

The team is going to pay him a lot of money to not play, but they do get nearly $4M in space. The only question remaining is whether the team will roll with who they have or look to add someone via the draft or free agency.

Luke Stocker

Dead money: $750,000, Salary cap savings: $2.6M

Given his age and production, this move was a no-brainer. Blocking tight ends are easier to find and don’t cost much in today’s NFL. The savings here aren’t huge, but neither is the dead money hit.

Ty Sambrailo

Dead money: $2M, Salary cap savings: $3.7M

While Ty did manage to pull in a touchdown reception in 2019, he offered little else for his salary. He was quickly supplanted by draft pick Kaleb McGary and at one point was surpassed on the depth chart by Matt Gono. The dead money hit is a bit ugly, but the nearly $4M in savings makes this an easy move.

Desmond Trufant

Perhaps the most surprising cut is Trufant. His recent injury history must have contributed to this decision, though it’s still stunning. The reason we haven’t listed the cap savings above is because we’re still not sure if he is going to be cut out-right or designated a June 1st cut. This distinction is critical. If they cut Trufant outright, they will see a dreadful $10M dead money hit and just under $5M in cap relief. However, if he’s designated a June 1st cut, the dead money hit this year drops to just $4.4M and the team will realize a cap savings of $10.75M. That would mean also mean that Trufant would count $5.8M towards the 2021 salary cap in dead money.

Also, if he’s designated a June 1st cut, the team doesn’t realize that $10.75M of cap savings until June 2nd. So, that money can’t be used immediately, meaning the team wouldn’t be able to go after a notable free agent just yet. It seems highly probable that he will be designated a post June 1st cut. The $10M dead money hit this year for an out-right cut seems unlikely.

Update 3/18:

We can now confirm that the team has designated Trufant a post-June 1st cut, meaning they will realize the nearly $11M in cap savings on June 2nd.

Where we stand right now

After these cuts and the recent contracts given to Keith Smith and Tyeler Davison, the team is now roughly $3.6M under the salary cap before the Trufant cut is factored in. The Falcons will either add 5 or 10M in additional cap space once the Desmond Trufant cut is finalized. There are still other options for freeing up cap space including more cuts and salary conversions. That said, don’t expect the team to dramatically change their cap space at this point. They might be able to sign one notable free agent, but a large series of moves is still highly unlikely.