We’ve already talked about how the restructuring of Matt Ryan’s contract has potentially impacted draft plans and the impact to the team’s salary cap over the next few years. One thing that hasn’t been talked about yet is how this restructure is opening up more options for general manager Terry Fontenot where the entire roster is concerned.
Priority 1: Get under the cap
I can’t stress this enough, but Fontenot had to get the team under the salary cap before the league year starts at 4PM on Wednesday March 17th. Failure to do so could literally lead to losing draft picks. Restructuring Ryan’s deal yielded just enough to do so. However, by accomplishing this by touching just one contract, Fontenot has left options open with several other players as we go into the official 2021 season.
Keeping many options open
The other 2 players who were the most likely targets for a restructure or cut: Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones.
Jarrett and Jones were very possible targets for the salary-to-bonus conversions like they did with Ryan. Restructuring Grady would save about $8 million in space this year while doing so with Jones would save a little over $5 million. However, doing so means you’re pumping up their cap hits in 2022 and you are effectively taking other options off the table this year and potentially next.
Fontenot didn’t restructure them, though, and now he has more options he can explore. Both of these guys are core pieces of the defense and young enough to warrant keeping around. He can explore a contract extension for both Jarrett and Jones that could simultaneously keep them here for another few years while also reducing their cap hits in 2021 and possibly even 2022.
Alternately, if the coaches think either of these guys won’t fit well in their vision for the defense going forward, trading them is still on the table (please know I am not advocating for this). Lastly, the Falcons could still convert a portion of their salaries to bonuses if needed for additional cap space this year or flat out leave their contracts as is.
No matter which road they go down, Atlanta has a few more options they can explore with some of their young guys as a result of restructuring Ryan’s deal. For a GM who is having to navigate an incredible difficult cap situation, this flexibility is critical. So, while the Ryan deal limits their options somewhat with an aging QB, it has probably given our new general manager the time he needs to make the right moves elsewhere.