The Falcons are entering a new era in 2021. With a new head coach in former Titans OC Arthur Smith and new GM in former Saints executive Terry Fontenot, change is on the horizon for a team that has remained largely steady for most of the prior decade. We now know Atlanta’s defense will be helmed by renowned DC Dean Pees, which could complicate things even further as his scheme differs—in terms of the defensive line and secondary—from what the team ran under Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris.
That new era will have a difficult start, as Atlanta is in a very tough spot with the salary cap. Recent reports say that many owners are pushing for a cap number all the way down at $180M, which would be a nearly $20M drop from 2020. That is only a hair higher than the “nightmare scenario” of $175M, and would put the Falcons at nearly -$30M in cap space heading into the offseason. I maintain that the cap isn’t likely to drop that far or at all—this is probably all posturing on the part of the owners, who will want to extract something from the NFLPA in return for a flat cap this season—but it’s something to be aware of.
I already took a look at some veteran cuts and restructures the Falcons could do to free up nearly $40M in cap space. Those moves, combined with the nearly $6M in 2020 cap they should be able to “roll over”, should be enough to get the team under the cap and sign their draft class even in the nightmare scenario.
In the event that the cap is flat, however, those moves would free up Atlanta to make a few calculated moves in free agency. There won’t be any splash signings here, but I’d expect a few key re-signings and perhaps a handful of mid-level veterans from the open market. To prepare everyone for 2021 free agency, I’ll be doing a series of episodes breaking down potential free agency targets. If you missed Part 1, where I broke down the basics of free agency including the different player classifications and rules, check it out here.
On today’s episode, I take a closer look at the free agents the Falcons should prioritize re-signing prior to the start of the 2021 league year.
There are a lot of potential free agents who could return—Atlanta has 24 players who ended the season on the 2020 roster slated to hit free agency, either as UFAs, RFAs, or ERFAs. Obviously the team isn’t likely to bring back the majority of them, but I think they’ll try to make a few key depth signings. Players like Darqueze Dennard and Justin McCray could be cheap, reliable options, while several ERFAs like Younghoe Koo and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner are all but certain to be here in 2021.
I hope you enjoy the second episode in our 2021 Falcons Free Agency series! Please leave your comments below and let me know what other types of breakdowns you’d like to see. If you haven’t already, be sure to Like the video and Subscribe to our YouTube channel!