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 could be 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. You can check out the previous episodes here:
On today’s episode, I continue my look at potential free agent targets with tight ends—where Atlanta has just Hayden Hurst under contract heading into 2021.
The Falcons will need to fill out the depth chart behind Hurst, who is a quality receiver and the presumptive TE1. With a new offensive system under Arthur Smith and new TEs coach in former player Justin Peelle, we could see much more emphasis placed on the position than in years past. Could Smith bring over players from Tennessee, like Jonnu Smith or MyCole Pruitt? What about Peelle, who has coached a ton of TEs over his years in Philadelphia?
I hope you enjoy the fourth 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!