Matt Ryan has helped the Atlanta Falcons create even more space under the salary cap after restructuring his contract on Friday, March 11.
The move, reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, has given Falcons’ general manager Terry Fontenot an additional $12 million worth of room ahead of free agency:
ALL the latest Falcons news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Falcons newsletter here!
Falcons Have Funds to Be Active
Ryan had previously carried a historic cap hit for 2022, but his new deal has given the Falcons some breathing space. The veteran quarterback’s updated cap numbers were provided by Spotrac:
This is the second development in a matter of days that has provided the Falcons with the means to be active in this year’s market. The first involved wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy.
Ridley’s salary for this year will toll, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. It took $11.16 million off of the Falcons’ cap hit.
Now, the Falcons find themselves $16,057,973 under the cap. The figure puts a number of options on the table Fontenot was likely not counting on a week ago.
Those options include possibly recruiting a prolific pass-rusher, while also having the resources to retain the team’s key weapon on offense.
Chandler Jones, Cordarrelle Patterson Deals Possible
Hours before Ryan’s deal was restructured, the Falcons were named as one of six teams keen on free-agent edge-rusher Chandler Jones, per NFL analyst Jordan Schultz:
The Arizona Cardinals’ franchise sack leader will have a robust market to test, but he’d also solve the main weakness on the Falcons’ defense. It’s a unit that logged a league-low 18 sacks last season, but the pass rush isn’t the only area Fontenot needs to fix.
There’s also an offensive line that surrendered 40 sacks. Quality blockers traditionally don’t come cheap in free agency, but that needn’t be a worry any longer for those inside the Falcons front office.
Instead, a free agent like New England Patriots right tackle Trent Brown should now be on Fontenot’s radar. So could Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen. Both would add the toughness, bulk and experience the Falcons lacked in the trenches a year ago.
Of all the possible incomings Fontenot could make, his best move would be retaining the playmaker the Falcons already know. Bringing back Cordarrelle Patterson would be a major coup after he revitalized his career and redefined his position last season, per PFF Fantasy Football:
Keeping Patterson would mean having a player capable of picking up the slack in a receiver room already depleted by Ridley’s absence. It would also mean being able to maintain the running game as the feature of head coach Arthur Smith’s offense.
Patterson excelled on a one-year, prove-it deal in 2021, but he played himself into a position to earn way more than the $3 million he earned last season. Now the Falcons can pay him what he deserves and ensure his head isn’t turned by suitors.
The same goes for middle linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. He’s worked hard to become an integral member of the Falcons’ front seven, leading the league in tackles last season.
Oluokun is projected by ESPN’s Mike Reiss to receive a contract paying at least $10 million annually. That number seemed out of the Falcons’ range before Ryan agreed to rework his deal.
It’s a team-first move by an incumbent signal-caller who still has his detractors but continues to do what he can to help the Falcons win. Ryan’s currently the best quarterback in the NFC South, and the 36-year-old’s just ensured he’ll enter the new season with a better team around him.