A way-too-early look at off-season options for the Falcons
As we move into the second half of 2021, it certainly appears clear that this will not be a successful year. Having said that, I am one of those that believes the Falcons are over-achieving with the dearth of talent on this roster. I give much of that credit to Matt Ryan and the new coaching staff.
As we look forward the Falcons must address numerous starting positions and a dreadful cap situation left for them largely by the previous regime. So, let’s first look at where they are, then address some quick fixes and possible moves to free-up cap space. Then I’ll take a first stab at the draft.
(1) 2022 projected NFL cap is $208.2M and the Falcons sit at $177.6M with 28 players under contract.
(2) Projected cuts: Fowler ($0), Davison ($3.8), Davis ($2.5), Cominsky ($1), and Sheffield ($1). Savings is $8.3M. Fowler’s $4.7M must be paid in full. Revised CAP: $169.3M plus $20.4M dead cap = $189.7M).
(3) Trade Deion Jones who is owed $19.5M in 2022. Since the Falcons would absorb his bonus money, the resulting savings is $9.9M. Revised Cap: $179.8M.
(4) Re-structure Matt Ryan with two additional VOID years: Matt Ryan’s cap hit in 2022 currently stands at $48.7M, and his contract runs through the 2023 season. To add two void years (2024 / 2025), they could free up his 2022 salary above the league minimum, which currently stands at $1.075 Million. The ‘removed’ $15.175M is spread out evenly over three years (2023 / 2024 / 2025). His salary drop reduces his 2022 cap hit to $33.525 Million, a savings of $15.2M rounded. Revised Cap: $164.6M.
(5) Allocating $7.8 Million for the 2022 rookie (draft) signing class, the new cap space is $35.8M with 29 players accounted for. This leaves and average of $1.49M for the rest of the 24 roster spots (Full-53).
Off-season Needs (in no priority order): RB1, RB2, RB3, WR2, WR3, WR4, TE2, TE3, OT, OG, K, P, LS, DE, NT/DT, EDGE/OLB, ILB, CB2 (RCB), CB, FS, SS. Maybe QB2, depending upon Franks. Plus 2-3 backups to fill-up the roster. NOTE: This does not address the possibility that Calvin Ridley never returns to playing status.
F/A Target Priorities: It is too soon to tell, except for one obvious priority… re-signing Cordarelle Patterson. That won’t be easy. He’s no longer a sleeper. Beyond that they will need to see who shakes out in Free Agency after the season is over.
Where would I go in the DRAFT? Assuming that they may well be drafting in the #7 to #10 range and they have a need to get ‘younger’ with cheaper contracts, I would try to obtain additional draft capital. A trade-down in the first round would be advised IF their primary target is no longer on the Board at #10. My choice would be NT Jordan Davis (UGA) at 6’6" / 340 lbs and a vocal leader and disrupter on the team. I believe he will be gone in the top 6 picks. Here we go after that…
Trade down options. Cincinnati at #19 looks like the most likely team of interest (this early). Let’s assume that for the sake of argument. Cincinnati sends #19, #51, and #83 to ATL for #10 and 2023 6th Rounder.
P19 – ILB Nakobe Dean (UGA 6'0" / 228) – a game-changing talent to replace Deion Jones.
P42 – EDGE David Ojabo (MICH 6'5" /250) – a high potential pass rusher.
P51 – RB1 Kenneth Walker (MSU 5'9" / 208) – a prolific runner who fits ZBS and power concepts.
P63 – CB Tariq Castro-Fields (PSU / 6’0" / 191) – capable of being a shutdown CB on the Field side.
P73 – WR Jalen Tolbert (USA 6’3 / 190) – So. Alabama phenom, stellar skills despite average QB play.
P83 – OT/OG Jamaree Sawyer (UGA 6'4" / 325) – versatile OL who excelled at LT, RT, and LG.
P105 – OT Daniel Faalele (UMN 6’8" / 380) – a monster to compete for Swing/Starting RT.
P137 – NT/DT Travis Jones (UCONN 6’5 / 333) – a capable run-stopper and substitute for J. Davis.
P169 – TE2 Cade Otton (UWA 6’5 / 250) – excellent blocker, capable receiver at this point in the draft.
What are your thoughts on this first go-around?