Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the AJC D. Orlando Ledbetter has sent out a tweet that has shaken the Falcons faithful. In his tweet (you can fine him on twitter @AJCFalcons) he states that the salary space that the Falcons currently have is a little over $5.7 million. This number is supported by a report by Pro Football Talk, who quoted the Falcons salary-cap space as the same amount. These numbers are a stark contrast to numbers alluded to but not spelled out directly in a series of articles by ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas. If you read all of the articles that he published (and are a Falcon fan who views the cup as half full) you would believe the Falcons have around $15 million free in cap-space.
One possible explanation is that a great many people did not include Brent Grimes’ franchise-tag cap-number in the projected cap-space. It seems that that tag is included in the aforementioned $5.7 million. In previous articles I predicted that the Falcons had enough cap space (at LEAST $15 million) to sign Mario Williams, or perhaps go after Carl Nicks, or any number of free-agents. It appears that the available cap space is significantly less.
Now, Brent Grimes has not signed his franchise-tag yet. As a result, the Falcons could still sign him to a long-term contract that would significantly knock down his salary-cap number for not only the 2012 season, but lock him up for the long term. This would be the best solution to any current or future cap woes, but the time to make a deal like this happen is RIGHT NOW. Atlanta needs to have as much cap space available as possible by 4 P.M. tomorrow, so that if they do want to make a big splash in free-agency (lets face it, at this point Mario Williams is well out of our price range) they could make it happen. Increasing cap space even a couple million dollars could be a difference maker in the 2 coming season. Another individual who could see a contract restructure/extension soon is Matt Ryan. Decreasing his cap number could be instrumental.
Another option that has been floating around is that the Falcons would cut Sam Baker and potentially Ovie Mughelli. I have no qualms whatsoever with cutting Baker. He is dead weight on this team. I would like to keep Mughelli, but $3+ million for a FB is extremely expensive. Jettisoning these two players would save Atlanta nearly $6 million in cap space.
What players could the Falcons take with $5.7 million in cap space? Who would be difference makers that could come at that type of bargain? I think one is an easy answer, and the other would essentially be a re-signing. Left Tackle is a pressing need. The Falcons filled a void by signing former Jaguars guard Vince Manuwai to plug up a hole at right guard. The other position that needs a serious and immediate upgrade is LT. There are a couple players who are projected to become or are free-agents that the Falcons could sign. Two LT’s from San Diego could become free-agents; if Jared Gaither is re-signed to play LT for them next season, Marcus McNeill would almost certainly be released, and available for any team (hopefully Atlanta) to pick up. Reports from up in Buffalo are that FA Demetrius Bell has been involved in contract talks; however the reports are nothing more than reports, as he has not yet re-signed there. If either of these two players become available, the Falcons would be wise to scoop them up quickly. Both (excepting Gaither) have tremendous upside and the ability to protect the blindside of the quarterback that the Falcons desperately need. That being said, each has injury risks, which will doubtless keep their asking price down.
The other idea that has been floating around is that the Falcons may re-sign John Abraham, but on the Falcons’ terms, not on Abraham’s. There have been rumors floating around on possibly re-signing him after he sent out a tweet that he was in Flowery Branch (the Falcons HQ). He would probably be willing to sign for something slightly less than the $8 million he was demanding a couple weeks ago. I know the sooner Atlanta stops depending on Abraham to generate a pass rush the better, but at this point, they may be fresh out of options.
These are really just brainstorms of myself, and the collective thoughts of others. What would you like to see happen? Who might get cut? Who might get a contract restructure/extension? Am I dead wrong? Let us know what you think.