After reading another piece from ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas, it is clear that the Falcons salary cap situation in 2013 isn’t looking good, but that things begin to clear up for this team in 2014. With the league-wide salary cap only expected to increase $300,000 in 2013, there will not be extensive space for teams to bring in new players simply through new revenue. In his article, he highlights all four NFC South teams. Both Carolina and Tampa will be right up against the salary cap with players that they already have money committed to. With 45 players signed through 2013, Carolina will have a paltry $2M in cap space, and Tampa will have only $8M.
The two teams to focus on here, however, are the Saints and most importantly the Falcons. Yasinskas provided 2013 salary cap situations based on contracts already committed for these two teams. The Saints will have $12.9M in cap space, but Yasinskas posts a warning; the Saints currently have the franchise tag placed on Drew Brees, and once he receives his new contract, which is inevitable, he will take up every bit of $12 million and probably a good amount more. It is fairly safe to say that the Saints are not projected to be big players in free-agency in 2013; the biggest free-agency signing they will make is when they re-sign Brees to a long term contract.
Yasinskas also says that the Falcons will probably lose most of that cap space in 2013 if they decide to extend Matt Ryan’s contract (which they need to do sooner rather than later) as well as signing any rookies they may draft or want to sign. But there is another person who is very important in this situation who has also had the franchise tag applied to him from the NFC South. Thats Brent Grimes. The Falcons 2013 salary cap does not include whatever money Grimes will make in that season, because his $10M salary in 2012 is on a 1-year contract as a result of the franchise tag. Including money due to Grimes, the Falcons will be in dire straights in 2013.
I think there are some positives to look at here. First, if Grimes signs a long term deal, even if its only for three seasons or so, he will not make $10M in each of those seasons. Hopefully Atlanta can reach a deal with Grimes in time this season. If so, any salary cap space this season will roll onto the next season and while the Falcons would have less than $12 million in cap space, they would have an important player in on their defense. While the franchise tag potentially hurting the Saints is a good thing, the street runs both ways as the Falcons currently have an important player under the franchise tag.
The 2014 season, however, things really loosen up. After the 2013 season, Ryan will be an unrestricted free-agent, and numerous players contracts will have run out. The Falcons have 18 players and $75 million committed to players in the 2014 season. If its not done before then, this is the time when Ryan would certainly get a new contract, and the Falcons would have the ability to do a lot in free-agency.