With the ink nearly dry on the trade of Julio Jones to the Titans, it’s time to take stock of what this move ultimately means for the Falcons cap space. The trade not only netted picks in 2022 and 2023, it ultimately gave the team a different outlook for this season and 2022. While many are focused on the picks Atlanta received, the cap relief may have been the bigger incentive for a team that was unable to sign their draft picks.
Let’s take a look at what the cap looks like now and for 2022.
Whenever a contract is over with a team—whether by retirement, a cut or a trade—the remainder of the prorated bonus comes due. Unless that move is made after June 1st (or designated as post June 1st when it’s a cut), in which case the team can take the existing dead money hit for the current year and push off the rest of the prorated bonus money to the next league year.
Where Julio is concerned, he had 3 years remaining on his contract with $7.75 million being allocated to each year for his signing bonus. That means for 2021, the team will have a dead money hit of $7.75 million for Julio. His salary for 2021 was set to be $15.3 million, which the Titans have agreed to take on completely.
So, while the team was always going to be responsible for that $7.75 million from the prorated bonus, they’re now off the hook for the $15.3 million salary. This directly gives them that much space in the 2021 salary cap.
As it stands now, the Falcons should now have about $15.7 million in salary cap space. This is more than enough to sign the rookie class and gives the team some money to pursue a free agent or two if they so choose.
They may want to carry over some of that cap space into 2022 because...
Julio’s salary for 2022 was set to be $11.5 million. When combined with the prorated bonus amount of $7.75 million, he was originally going to account for $19.2 million in cap space for the 2022 season. The Falcons no longer have to pay his salary, but the remaining two years of his prorated bonus have to be accounted for in 2022. This means he will have a dead money hit of $15.5 million (7.75 for 2022, 7.75 for 2023 - the last year of the contract extension).
That’s a painful dead money hit, but the team will ultimately save about $3.7 million in cap space due to not paying his salary (original 19.2 million cap hit - 15.5 million dead money). It’s not a huge savings, but the team will need it. As it stands right now, they have 39 players under contract for the 2022 season and will have about $15 million in cap space (assuming the NFL lives up to the projected salary cap ceiling of $208 million). That’s not nearly as bad as the 2021 season and there are certainly ways to work around it—getting Calvin Ridley signed to an extenstion will help, for example—but this trade does not make the 2022 situation significantly better.
So, while the team is now without one of the greatest in franchise history, they have created some desperately needed cap space while picking up some draft capital in the mean time. What are your thoughts on the new outlook for the Falcons salary cap?