From the jump, this Falcons regime has made it clear that this was an evaluation year in which they planned to compete. In some ways, this season has been a success — I think this Falcons team has outperformed expectations, and they beat the teams that they should. This is a good sign with a roster that isn’t very strong top to bottom.
On the other hand, they have been crushed by superior competition, and it’s clear this team has trouble punching above their weight class. Their -146 point differential speaks to that. I’m going to lay out some possibilities for the Falcons to do a complete reset.
I’m not sure what the Falcons will do this offseason, but you have to assume all options are on the table, even if they say they are committed to Matt Ryan. Part One will focus on trades; Part Two will look at some free agent options and cuts, and Part Three will focus on the draft. All cap figures are via Over The Cap.
Trade or Extend Grady Jarrett
To me, Grady Jarrett isn’t a player you just trade because things are looking down. I was hoping a Jarrett extension would have gotten done last offseason to help the team this year, but it didn’t go down that way. Jarrett is one of the few X-factors on this roster, and he’s the type of guy you want to have on your team until he retires. However, if he isn’t interested in an extension, you should be coming away with at least a first-round pick and more.
Trade Deion Jones
Deion Jones had a bit of a down 2021 season, but he can still be an impact player on a championship contending team. By trading Jones before June 1st, the Falcons would have to eat about $10.7 million and would save roughly $9.4 million. If a deal is done after June 1st, the Falcons would only eat $5.3 million and would save $14.7 million. Trading Jones, if at all, before June 1st would be ideal — but the money may be too much to overcome. However, if a team offers a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2022 draft, it could be too sweet of a deal to turn down. At this point, I would take the cap relief and a 4th or 5th-round selection.
Falcons Trade: LB Deion Jones
Giants Trade: 2022 4th Round Pick
Trade Calvin Ridley
With all due respect to Calvin Ridley’s mental health, I’m not going to speculate on his future in the NFL. If he does want to keep playing, the Falcons should look to move him. Maybe a team like the Ravens or Bengals would be interested in his services. A second-round pick would be a dream, but a third-round pick seems more likely at this point.
Falcons Trade: WR Calvin Ridley
Ravens Trade: 2022 2nd Round Pick
Trade Matt Ryan
It’s going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m in the camp that believes that Matt Ryan deserves a chance to compete as his career winds down. He will be 37-years-old when the 2022 season begins, and the Falcons would have to seriously revamp a thin roster with very little resources to do so. Matt Ryan is one of my favorite players ever, and it would be sad to see him go, but I think you can get a decent return for him, especially with Atlanta taking a record setting dead cap hit.
Ryan’s astonishing $40.5 million dead cap hit would leave the Falcons with essentially zero money to spend. It’s more likely the team rides out his contract and lets him mentor a potential quarterback that they select in 2023, but anything is on the table this offseason, even if there are reports out there that guarantee Ryan will be back next season.
The Steelers, Eagles, Broncos, and Browns all make sense as destinations. If you can get a first-round pick for Ryan this offseason, I think you absolutely have to pull the trigger. If not, waiting until 2023 when his pre-June 1st dead cap hit goes down to $15.6 million seems much more palatable. I don’t see a scenario where a team trades for Ryan after June 1st of 2022.
Falcons Trade: QB Matt Ryan
Broncos Trade: QB Drew Lock, 2022 2nd Round Pick, 2023 Conditional 3rd Round Pick