No NFL front office is perfect. You hit. You miss. Life goes on. But when you miss, it won’t go unnoticed, nor should it. Step right up, Thomas Dimitroff, it’s time to pay the piper.
The Falcons’ 2018 campaign was, in a word, “rough.” The Falcons had 7 starters land on IR and finished 7-9 after a 1-4 start. It wasn’t the season anyone was hoping for after a 2017 campaign that saw the Falcons topple the Rams in the wild card round before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Eagles in the divisional round. But it was what it was, and the front office set out to make some necessary changes during the offseason.
For the record, it’s not Dimitroff’s fault that Ryan Schraeder fell off a cliff in 2018. And he couldn’t have predicted Andy Levitre’s season-ending injury. But I am inclined to blame him for the Brandon Fusco experiment. In any case, the offensive line needed help. Fast.
The Falcons brought in Jamon Brown (3 yrs, $18.75 million) and James Carpenter (4 years, $21 million) via free agency before drafting both Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. In addition, notwithstanding his pedestrian 2018 campaign, the Falcons brought back Vic Beasley ($12.8 million fifth year option). In short, they spent a lot of money and with the benefit of hindsight, we now know just how bad those investments were.
“Yeah, James, we know. Those were train wreck signings. Nothing we can do about it now!” I understand that, but it’s worth highlighting just how detrimental those signing may wind up being.
The Falcons (and the rest of the NFL) are staring down a substantially reduced cap in 2021. I don’t care how creative teams can theoretically get to circumvent cap limitations, this reduced cap ($175 million) is going to result in a lot of lost jobs. And the Falcons are in a uniquely difficult situation, with $213 million committed in 2021. That puts them $38 million over the 2021 cap. (This accounts for the money they will save in 2021 by cutting Brown.)
The Falcons’ careless spending during the 2019 offseason had both immediate and lasting effects. In the short-term, they could’ve spent that money on players well-equipped to actually help them win football games. Long-term, it could’ve made the substantially reduced 2021 cap easier to navigate. Instead, the Falcons will be forced to slice and dice their way under the cap after the 2020 season wraps. And as a result, they are likely to be extremely quiet during free agency.
The bottom line is this: The decision to sign Brown and Carpenter and pick up Beasley’s 5th year option didn’t create the financial crisis the Falcons are currently staring down, but it certainly didn’t help their cause either.