The Falcons aren’t out of the blue yet. Even after Julio Jones‘ entire contract was traded to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, their cap situation is a little bit hairy. It’s never too early to consider the ramifications of the 2021 offseason; regardless if the Falcons go 17-0 or 0-17, they will still have to be under the league salary cap before the 2022 season kicks off. So, let’s dive into an early look at what will be on Atlanta’s to do list for February 2022. This is all a bit premature, considering the 53-man roster hasn’t been set, but I wanted to take a look at Atlanta’s situation following the Jones trade.

Projected Salary Cap:

The salary cap ceiling was reportedly agreed upon a few weeks ago, set at $208.2 million. This is a steep increase from 2021, around $26 million if the salary cap is set at the ceiling. For now, I’ll just work with that number since the official cap won’t be set until spring of 2022. This is good news for the Falcons; with all of the restructuring they did, they should still have breathing room to bring back some of their key pieces they need to extend or retain. With a lot of one-year contracts coming off of the books, the front office will have a good evaluation of what pieces they would like to keep.

Falcons Current Salary Liabilities:

As of now, the Falcons currently have roughly $197 million in cap liabilities for 2022 before their 2021 draft class is signed (via OverTheCap). This also includes some UDFAs, which of course, are not guaranteed a roster spot — even in 2021. That number will change shortly and could benefit Atlanta if Terry Fontenot elects to roll over the extra cap space the Falcons have now into next year. 

Matt Ryan — $48.6 million

Grady Jarrett — $23.8 million

Jake Matthews — $23.7 million

Deion Jones — $18.7 million

Calvin Ridley — $11.1 million

Dead Money:

While the Falcons are finally free of some of the bad contracts of the past regime such as Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, and Desmond Trufant after 2021, Julio Jones’ $15.3 million dead cap hit for 2022 will still loom VERY large. That is a ton of money to pay somebody to not play on your team. For now, Jones is the only holdover the Falcons will have next offseason, but it’s a big one.

Extension Candidates:

For the extension candidates, I’m going to focus on the guys who have been on the roster that will likely need new contracts either in 2022 or shortly after. While I’m sure guys like Duron Harmon and Fabian Moreau could play themselves into the conversation, that’s a focus for later in the season after I can evaluate them in the new scheme.

WR Calvin Ridley

WR Russell Gage

TE Hayden Hurst

OL Matt Gono

LB Foyesade Oluokun

K Younghoe Koo

Most of these guys are no-brainers to me, especially with Jones coming off of the books after next offseason. I would love to hand Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Foyesade Oluokun, and Younghoe Koo new deals after this season. Ridley will play on his fifth-year option next season, and with Jones still taking up a huge portion of Atlanta’s cap space, they may wait to extend him until the 2023 offseason, especially with the salary cap expected to go way up. However, I think he will have a monsterous 2021 season, so it may be best to get a deal done now.

Gage, Hurst, Gono, Oluokun, and Koo are all impending free agents. I’m 50/50 on re-signing Gono for the right price, but Hurst has a real shot to play himself into another contract with the Falcons under Arthur Smith. That is yet to be seen. I wouldn’t expect all of these guys to get new deals, but at least a couple will be Falcons for the foreseeable future.

Free Agency Outlook:

This is a solid free agent class, but until the new Amazon television deal kicks in for 2023 and the salary cap sees an extreme spike, I don’t see the Falcons spending big on many free agents. However, as of now, there are some interesting high-profile names set to hit free agency before any franchise tags or extensions are given out. Jones’ dead cap hit may prevent the Falcons from signing any of them, but here are some potential targets.

WR Will Fuller

WR Chris Godwin

WR Davante Adams

WR Tyler Lockett

TE Zach Ertz

TE Evan Engram

TE Mike Gesicki

TE David Njoku

IOL Brandon Scherff

IOL Wyatt Teller

IDL Akiem Hicks

IDL Jonathan Allen

IDL Brandon Williams

EDGE Von Miller

EDGE TJ Watt

EDGE Derek Barnett

EDGE Chandler Jones

EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul

LB Fred Warner

LB Darius Leonard

LB Jayon Brown

CB Stephon Gilmore

CB Darious Williams

S Tyrann Mathieu

S Marcus Williams

S Jesse Bates

S Marcus Maye

This article first appeared on SportsTalkATL and was syndicated with permission.

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