We know the Falcons have problems. Ever since an almost-win in the Super Bowl, the Falcons have hemorrhaged talent despite unmitigated spending. A quick look at nearly every spot shows shows about five years of costly roster decisions.
At defensive end, former general manager Thomas Dimitroff replaced veteran Dwight Freeney with Takkarist McKinley. The bust not only cost Atlanta its first round pick, but the team was so enamored with McKinley, who was selected ahead of TJ Watt, it traded a third-round pick to move up to secure McKinley. With Vic Beasley and McKinley gone, the Falcons went into desperation mode and overpaid for Dante Fowler. At guard, the Falcons threw a lot at the wall to see what would stick in replacing Andy Levitre and Chris Chester. That included spending big on Brandon Fusco, James Carpenter, and Jamon Brown.
It is no wonder to see the Falcons coming in 32nd place in ESPN’s roster review. What is surprising is to see is among the other teams at the bottom of the league, Atlanta’s cap crunch is the headline.
Even after trading away wide receiver Julio Jones, he impacts the Falcons ability to fill out the roster through the 2022 season. Jones has a $15.5 million cap hit for 2022. It can be tough to add depth when a substantial portion of your total salary cap dollars are going to so few players. Including Jones, who won’t even be there, just five players account for $131.7 million of Atlanta’s 2022 salary cap. The 2022 salary cap has a maximum of $208.2 million, meaning the Falcons are spending 63% of their total cap space on five players — only four of which are still on the team.
Dimitroff left the franchise in an unenviable position. The team is both bad and broke. The second-worst team, the Detroit Lions, are bad, but they do have some spending room. The Falcons have problems not only in 2021 but also 2022.
Looking at Dimitroff’s moves since the Super Bowl, ESPN’s ranking makes sense. Dimitroff took big swings on a number of players, whether by trading up for subpar players or overspending on bad ones. He seemed to think the team was just a few players away from competing again, and focused on starters while ignoring depth. Now the Falcons have to do more with less for a few more seasons.