Atlanta was always going to have to re-work some contracts to get under the cap, given that they don’t have a ton of obvious candidates to cut. They’re getting that party started with a restructure of Jake Matthews’ deal, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, one that will free up $8.6 million in cap space.
We’ll get more details in the hours and days ahead, but this restructure should get Atlanta pretty close to being out of the red. Per Over the Cap, they were about $14.2 million over the cap heading into this morning, and the move with Matthews gets them within striking distance. They’ll need to clear more than the remaining $5.6 million if they want to have a shot at signing anyone in free agency, however.
Matthews is under contract through 2023, and the Falcons will spread additional money over the next two years of his deal. That obviously increases the chances he’ll be on the roster those two years, but that’s a move the team was comfortable making given that Matthews is a durable, effective left tackle who should continue to age pretty gracefully. He is one of the few linemen on this team who has consistently played at a high level over the past couple of seasons, and he’s started all 16 games in each of the last six years.
They’ll still be able to get out of his deal in 2023 if they want to, albeit with a fairly large dead money hit, but if all goes well they won’t even need to think about it because A) he’ll still be a good player and B) they’ll be giving him a new deal to mitigate the hit. This move means that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have identified him as a building block for this team at least in the short term, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The Falcons still probably need to look at other contracts—Grady Jarrett, Julio Jones, and Matt Ryan come to mind—and could realize more savings by releasing players like Tyeler Davison and Isaiah Oliver if they won’t be part of Atlanta’s plans going forward. This is a good start, however, and we’ll see what moves are yet to come.