Imagine a world where the Falcons have a new head coach and a new general manager in 2021. The NFL somehow found a way to make the 2020 season happen, but the Falcons failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Arthur Blank makes it clear during the hiring process that he isn’t envisioning a wholesale rebuild, and he wants the newly installed regime to make something happen before the Falcons’ Super Bowl window slams shut. If you can’t get it done with this roster in the next, let’s say, 2-3 years, then this isn’t the job for you.
The problem in this scenario is obvious: Any new regime will inherit a less than ideal cap situation. To be fair, NFL teams always seem to find creative ways to get around cap limitations, and it’s not like the Falcons have below average personnel, but they aren’t likely to be big spenders in free agency. There’s no getting around that. Not unless something changes.
Teams with the most money already committed to the 2021 salary cap:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 17, 2020
1. Eagles: $267.3M
2. Saints: $250.1M
3. Falcons: $214.9M
4. Chiefs: $200.7M
5. Texans: $197.5M
It’s worth noting that the total cap committed for 2021 breaks down as $124 million committed to the offense and only $84 million committed to the defense. They only have $180 million committed to the cap in 2022 and $90 million committed to the cap in 2023. So any HC-GM combo will benefit from additional financial flexibility in years 2 and 3, as they try to be as competitive as possible over the duration of Matt Ryan’s deal. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad situation for a sought after head coach or GM candidate. It might actually be viewed in the complete opposite fashion, drawing the attention of some premiere candidates looking to launch a long tenure with an NFL team. Add in a new stadium, good ownership, and some talented players to coach, there are worse places to be. So do I think the 2021 cap operates as a true deterrent? Probably not, if the team is willing to make some concessions.
It’s anyone’s guess who would be on the chopping block headed into 2021, but Jamon Brown (cap savings of $5.5 million), James Carpenter (cap savings of $4 million), Ricardo Allen (cap savings of $6.25 million), and Allen Bailey (cap savings of $4.5 million) come to mind. Cutting some or most of that list will afford the Falcons some much-needed cap flexibility next March. Takk McKinley and Keanu Neal are both headed for free agency, and it’s not yet clear if either will remain with the Falcons. So there are difficult decisions ahead and there will be odd men out.
Take a deep breath and don’t lose the forest for the trees. There’s no reason to panic, but it’s worth keeping an eye on how this cap situation evolves over the next 6-9 months. It could play a decisive role in the composition of this team in 2021 and beyond.
Your thoughts, Falcoholics?