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Dante Fowler’s contract gives Falcons cap flexibility but big future payouts

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Frankly, this was the only way the team could afford him.

Los Angeles Rams v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When the Falcons made the move to sign Dante Fowler Jr. this offseason, quite a few people (myself included) were surprised that they made that big of a move. Atlanta is one of the most cap-strapped teams in the league, but still managed to sign one of the “top” free agent pass rushers.

Well, Over The Cap finally has those contract details and it shows how the team is making it happen. Fowler received a 3 year deal worth a total of $45 million with $29 million in guarantees and a $14 million signing bonus. Here’s how that breaks down.

2020

Base salary: $2 million

Cap hit: $6.666 million ($2M base + $4.666M bonus proration)

This was clearly designed to give the team maximum flexibility this year but as you’ll see, it will come at the cost of big cap hits in the next two years.

2021

Base salary: $13 million

Roster bonus: $1 million

Cap hit: $18.666 million ($13M base + $4.666M bonus proration + $1M roster bonus)

Dead money if cut: $9.333 million

Cap savings if cut: $9.3 million

Based on the guarantees in his contract, the likeliest scenario is that his 2021 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the first or second day of the league year in 2021. In theory, if the team cuts him before that point they could avoid that guarantee. We’ll have to wait for the complete details to know for sure, but don’t count on Fowler being a “one and done” in Atlanta.

2022

Base salary: $14 million

Roster bonus: $1 million

Cap hit: $19.666 million ($14M base + $4.666M bonus proration + $1M roster bonus)

Dead money if cut: $4.666 million

Cap savings if cut: $15.666 million

If Fowler turns in two bad seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons will have no problem moving on from him in 2022. On the flip side, if he has two good seasons, I would be incredibly shocked if they let this year of the deal play out. That nearly $20M cap hit is painful, even for a pass rusher. More than likely, the team is either going to cut him or extend him before any of these numbers hit in 2022.

Summary

Honestly, these numbers are to be expected. In an ideal world, they would be able to spread the cap hit out evenly across the entire contract. Had they done that here, signing Todd Gurley (whose contract details are still pending) probably would not have been possible. You can think of this contract as a two-year deal with the option to move on or agree to an extension in 2022.