Jake Matthews has been the Falcons’ best offensive lineman thus far in 2023, and it looks like his early 30s won’t cost him any of his usual effectiveness. That fact likely made the Falcons comfortable with restructuring his contract in a way that will kick his salary cap hit up a notch in future years while saving money in 2023.
How much money? Per NFL insider Field Yates, over $7 million.
The Falcons have restructured the contract of LT Jake Matthews, converting base salary into signing bonus and creating about $7.1M in 2023 salary cap space.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 27, 2023
The obvious follow-up question here is why? Atlanta had just over $2.6 million in space before this per Spotrac, one of the lowest numbers in the NFL. They’ll have close to $10 million now, which would seem to signal a team ready to make some kind of roster move. The alternative is that it’s simply increasing the size of Atlanta’s rainy day fund with injuries already piling up, but I doubt it.
Where might this money go, if the team is considering adding a mid-tier free agent to the mix or making a trade? The most obvious place to look would seem to be inside linebacker, where Troy Andersen just went down for the year. Nate Landman has looked pretty good filling in, but the Falcons may not be confident that will continue over the course of a full season. If not, there are options out there even if they aren’t particularly inspiring ones, and the rest of Atlanta’s money can be held out for future needs.
Other alternative uses for the newfound cash could be adding tackle help with Kaleb McGary struggling mightily and players like La’el Collins available, picking up an edge rusher to contribute to a group that has been relatively punchless to this point, or in an extreme longshot scenario adding another quarterback to the room. They could, as I mentioned, also just want to ensure they can add useful players if they lose any more starters to injury, which is an ever-present threat in the NFL.
For Matthews, this has no real impact on his money, but will make his cap hits the next couple of seasons more intimidating. Matthews ranks as PFF’s 20th best tackle in terms of overall blocking grade and scores as Atlanta’s best offensive lineman to this point, and even if he is credited with a pair of sacks, it would be hard to argue with that characterization with nearly everyone else struggling mightily. The Falcons are likely counting on Matthews being able to continue to age gracefully and be at least a solid starting left tackle; his iron man career to this point and typically quality work suggest it’s as safe a bet as you can possibly make on a tackle over the age of 30.
If there is a move coming, we won’t have to wait that long to find out with a big game against the Jaguars looming in Jacksonville. Either way, the Falcons are clearly setting themselves up to bolster the roster either now or in the future by restructuring Matthews’ deal.