Why the Falcons must win the Super Bowl this year
We, the long suffering fans of the Atlanta Falcons, have grown accustomed to one mantra over the years, “wait ‘til next year. In Super Bowl 51 (sorry, not going to bother looking up the roman numeral), for 40 glorious minutes, it looked like the wait was over. Not going to rehash what happened, it was painful enough the first 463,792 times. But this time, the mantra had a different feel. And why shouldn’t it? All our pieces coming back, very talented with more talent on the way, only major setbacks were a defensive coordinator who never seemed to do much anyway, and an offensive coordinator that most of the fan base despised. Things should look very good even with “Falcon colored” glasses on. Well, I’m here to explain why if we don’t get it done this year, we could be in serious peril.
Forget about the players for a moment. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Vic Beasley, Gray Jarrett, whoever your personal favorite, or favorites might be. Forget that this is currently the most talented roster ever to wear the red, silver and black.
Forget about Dan Quinn, our long awaited savior whose never ending energy and enthusiasm has us all seeing nothing but gold, even after a terrible loss.
Forget about Arthur Blank, the owner with the golden touch and heart to match. He who has brought us the most spectacular sporting venue ever created.
Forget everything you know about time lines, windows, expiration dates, X’s and O’s. Forget all of that, because the simple truth is, we need to win this year, Super Bowl 52 (once again, not looking it up), for one reason and one reason only…….
(Sigh!) Everything always seems to come down to money, doesn’t it. So why should football be any different? And if football comes down to money, why should the Falcons be immune to it? Here’s what I’m referring to.
The way our current 2017 version of the Falcons are constructed, we are on the hook for 57 players at over $159 million dollars. Leaving us roughly $3 million under the salary cap.
Right now, looking forward to the 2018 season, we only have 38 players currently under contract. Moreover, due to increased wages, bonuses, escalators, those 38 players account for over $160 million in salary. About $13 million or so under the cap (give or take a couple of million given we won’t know the true salary cap for quite some time yet.
Just $13 million to add 15 players to get up to the league mandated 53 players. 6 or so players( already lost a 5th rounder to Denver in exchange for Ty Sambrailo) will be added via the draft, costing anywhere from roughly $3 – $5.5 million, depending on where we draft. That leaves 9 players and roughly $8- $10 million to pay them. No free agent spending spree this season, best to just take care of our own. In no particular order, here are the Falcons 2018 free agents, restricted, unrestricted or otherwise.
Who do you keep from here, keeping in mind, you only have, at most, $10 million to spend. Dontari Poe? Ideally you’d like to get him long term if you so desired. You could back load his contract, but since he “settled” for $8 million this year, you probably couldn’t get him for much less than $6/7 million on that 1st year. Plus, with guaranteed money and the like, his “cap hit” would more than likely be more anyway. Adrian Clayborne? In the last year of a contract he signed coming off of injury (which is paying him $5 million this year). If we decided we wanted to keep Adrian, that probably means he performed fairly well, which means his “cap hit” would stay around the same, at least. Matt Bryant? Excellent kicker, makes over $3 million. Question: Why would someone pay a kicker that much money, then not trust him with the most important kick in franchise history? (Sorry, said I wouldn’t rehash that). Might take a little less at the tail-end of his career, but you wouldn’t get arguably the best K in Falcons history for less than $2 mil. Ricardo Allen? Finally set to make “big boy” money after 2 years of being an “exclusive rights” free agent, this restricted free agent to be will likely get a contract just under or just over $3 million, depending what level the Falcons decide to tender him at. So, it would appear we would be out of the running for any of our own “big money” free agents. Just have to make due with bargain basement free agents, draft choices and undrafted free agents.
“But Dewey”, you question, “aren’t there some players we could cut to gain some much needed cap relief?”. Excellent question, glad you asked. There are a handful of players that could be jettisoned to make room under the cap.
Matt Schaub-QB. This would net us about $4 million. But then we either draft his replacement, forcing us to have a rookie back up QB for 2018, or we sign one, which would take away anywhere from $1-2 million we just saved.
Jalen Collins -CB. Probably happening this season. Can definitely see it happening before 2018. Helps. But really only saves us about $1million.
Andy Levitre-OG. Ah, the guard everyone loves to hate. His 2018 cap hit is over $8 million. Cutting him frees up over $7 million. Question: What is the weakest spot on our offensive line currently? Answer: OG Wes Schweitzer. Yes, he’s getting incrementally better each week. But will it continue? What’s his ceiling gonna be? We drafted Pat Harlow, but he was largely unimpressive in pre-season. So much so that we signed an injured player (Pasztor) and traded for a player who’d lost his job (Sambrailo). So we would either have to hope a rookie comes along that can start, and excel, from week #1, sign a replacement, which would take away some of our cap savings, or hope both Schweitzer and Harlow develop. Don’t know about you, but I like Matt Ryan with a nice clean pocket he can step into.
Brooks Reed-DE. Cutting Reed would save about $3.5 million. Reed, so far this season, has been our most consistent overall DE. Yes, we have Beasley and Tak. But in this scenario, we’re already potentially losing Clayborne and Upshaw, do we really want to release another DE to save money?
So, what about trades you say? You don’t want to have to trade a starter unless you’re in “cap hell” or you’re overwhelmed by an offer. I really only see 2 marketable players, who we could get assests (more than likely draft picks) for. RB Tevin Coleman, WR Justin Hardy, neither of who make a crippling amount of money. So, those options don’t really help out the situation I’m referring to.
There are other options to “stretch” the cap. We can rollover any amount we have leftover this season. Right now, that would add a couple of million. We can always “rob Peter to pay Paul”. This is a common practice, re-work some contracts. Problem with that is, you eventually need to pay what is owed. The Saints did this a few years back and won a Super Bowl. They have been a shell of a team ever since. Yearly needing to jettison good players to gain needed cap relief.
So, that’s it. Our Falcons really need to win it all this year. That will allow us to continue to build for the long term, maybe sacrificing a little talent and experience for some green talent that can grow with the existing core that’s on the team now. If not, we’ll be forced to play Russian Roulette with the roster and stare down the loaded barrel of cap chaos.