A rare bit of good news for the Falcons comes Sunday morning. Only two years ago the Falcons strongly denied the team’s apparent cap issues. Through some “creative” cap measures, Thomas Dimitroff helped put Atlanta in the worst cap crunch of the team’s history. Terry Fontenot, responsible for cleaning up the resulting mess, was forced into making tough decisions as part of the team’s rebuild (or refresh, we still aren’t sure). That meant limited free agency spending in 2021. Very limited.
Thee team has certainly had its eyes on 2023 when new streaming and distribution deals are expected to raise the cap significantly. 2022 has remained another question. While we have seen a range of potential cap spending limits, Sunday’s rumor is the cap will be at the very top of that earlier range.
Somewhere Fontenot is popping a bottle of champagne.
Over the Cap projects the Falcons with $180.1 million dedicated to the team’s top 51 players (the NFL’s offseason measurement for caps). That leaves the Falcons with a robust $28.2 million in cap space. There are a few notable caveats with that number, such as Atlanta’s need to sign or extend a few players to fill out the roster, and the need for around $8 million for the team’s rookie class.
The team also has a number of options to fee up even more space. As part of Matt Ryan’s 2021 contract restructure, cap hits were moved to 2022. The result is an untenable $48 million in cap space. Fontenot can restructure again or sign Ryan to an extension, dropping that number significantly. Some players, like Deion Jones, are unlikely to return at their current salary (and $9.6 million cap hit). Others, like Grady Jarrett, are hopefully the recipients of contract extensions. For Jarrett, that would drop his $16.5 million cap hit.
Also notable is that Fontenot has added flexibility knowing the cap will balloon in 2023. A Dimitroff staple, new deals can have minimal impacts in those first years, pushing cap hits into later years where there is more available money. Let’s hope Fontenot knows not to do that every single contract.
In sum, the Falcons can start spending in 2022 and we can start seeing Fontenot’s plan for the roster.