Falcons Restructure O-Lineman’s Contract: Report

Jake Matthews Falcons

Tim Warner/Getty Images Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons looks to pass while being protected by Jake Matthews #70 on October 6, 2019.

On Thursday the Atlanta Falcons were busy signing their exclusive rights free agents, namely defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, plus placekicker Younghoe Koo, cornerback Tyler Hall and wide receiver Christian Blake.

On Friday they reportedly restructured the contract of left tackle Jake Matthews, freeing up a reported $8.6 million of cap space, this according to D. Orlando Ledbetter, Falcons beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It’s logical that Terry Fontenot & Co. decided to use Matthews as a way to help get under the $182.5 million salary cap. He’s been a durable starter ever since the Falcons made him the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and at 29 years old, there’s a good chance he remains Atlanta’s left tackle through the end of his current contract, which expires after the 2023 season.

Thanks to the restructure, Matthews’ salary drops from a scheduled $13 million to $2,250,000, this according to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. Meanwhile, he receives a bonus of $10,750,000 and carries a 2021 cap hit of $11,622,950, down from more than $20 million.

Matthews is scheduled to earn salaries of $12.5 million and $14 million in 2022 and 2023, respectively, per overthecap.com.

More Salary Cap Moves Forthcoming

Yet the Falcons still remain approximately $7 million over the cap, so more cuts and/or restructures will be forthcoming in the next handful of days.

The challenge is that there aren’t many good restructure candidates remaining. The two largest salary cap hits are those of QB Matt Ryan (approximately $41 million) and WR Julio Jones ($23,050,000), but adding dollars to already substantial future liabilities doesn’t seem prudent. Both Ryan and Jones have contracts that run through the 2023 season.

Another restructure candidate is defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who is responsible for the team’s third-largest salary cap cost in 2021 ($20,833,000). But a report from Jeff Schultz on Thursday indicates that Jarrett has not yet been approached about a restructure or extension.

The Falcons have already released three players in cost-cutting moves, namely veteran guard James Carpenter, as well as safety Ricardo Allen and defensive end Allen Bailey, all of whom were expected to be cap casualties.

Fontenot and Smith at Trey Lance’s Pro Day

Meanwhile, key parts of the Falcons’ brain trust had other business to attend to on Friday, namely North Dakota State’s Pro Day, which featured highly-touted quarterback prospect Trey Lance.

According to NFL reporter Albert Breer, following are some of the NFL general managers and head coaches who were in Fargo for Lance’s workout, a list that includes Falcons GM Terry Fonenot and head coach Arthur Smith.

The Falcons own the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and many mock drafts have them selecting a quarterback with that pick.

Lance is considered one of the top five prospects at his position, along with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, all of whom are widely regarded as first-round worthy quarterbacks.

Lance went 17-0 during his college career but North Dakota State but played just one game in 2020, so NFL observers have little recent game tape with which to evaluate him.

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