The Atlanta Falcons received their first major surprise of the offseason with the NFL announcing the year-long suspension of WR Calvin Ridley on Monday afternoon. Obviously, this move has major implications for Atlanta, but also for the rest of the league. Ridley was expected to be one of the top receivers available, and his absence will shake things up for the rest of the free agent class.
In terms of the future, what we do know is that Ridley is not going to be playing in the NFL in 2022—assuming any appeal is denied. But what about the effect on the Falcons salary cap for the 2022 season, and beyond?
Based on the reporting that we have, it seems pretty clear what the salary cap implication’s of Ridley’s suspension will be. I’ll summarize below.
- Ridley will be suspended for the entire 2022 season, removing his contract from the roster for the Falcons. This will create $11.1M in cap space for the Falcons, effective immediately.
- As this is the final year of Ridley’s contract, the suspension will cause it to “toll”, or repeat, in 2023. That means Ridley’s $11.1M fifth-year option will now apply in the 2023 season and against 2023’s salary cap—assuming he is reinstated by the league.
- As there is no prorated bonus money on Ridley’s deal—it had already been fully paid out on his four-year rookie contract—Ridley counts for $0 in dead cap in 2022.
- ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Ridley’s fifth-year option in 2023 is no longer guaranteed. This is most likely due to the suspension voiding any guarantees in the contract. The Falcons have a lot more flexibility with Ridley in 2023 as a result—they could cut him and save the entire $11.1M, have him play out the contract, or attempt to trade him again.
The great sites that help us keep track of the salary cap have already taken Ridley’s suspension into account. According to Spotrac, the Falcons are now under the cap for the first time this offseason. Atlanta is now sitting at $3,820,734, and can easily clear another $8.8M with a few veteran cuts. If you’re looking for more info on how much space the team can clear and some of their avenues for doing so, check out my video (or in written format here):