The 2018 campaign for the Atlanta Falcons began with promise because of owner Arthur M. Blank’s expectation of becoming the first team to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. Of course, the team was decimated by injuries and marred by inconsistency as the Dirty Birds limped to a 7-9 record.
Going into the offseason, there were some core areas that the organization has specifically targeted for upgrades; both sides of the line. “I’m comfortable at center and left tackle in the same way you said,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. “Past that, you scrub every bit of it.” That has set the tone of the focus for free agency and the draft. Also, there are some players that the organization would like to sign to long term deals and the promise of an upgrade to Wide Receiver Julio Jones are paramount going into 2019.
Blank made it clear; “I expect us to be active in any way we can to improve our team.” They have already made a round of cuts to save cap space in anticipation of having to extend big contracts to Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett who has quickly ascended as one of the top free agent interior defensive lineman in the league.
Tuesday Feb. 5th, the Falcons cut cornerback Robert Alford with two years remaining on his contract. The move saved the team $7.9 million. Three days later, Alford was signed by the Arizona Cardinals.
It was no surprise when fans took to social media to voice their displeasure when kicker Matt Bryant, was released last Wednesday, also saving the team nearly $2.9 million. However, “Money Matt”, as he was affectionately called, was always clutch and will be missed by many Falcons fans.
“I am extremely grateful for everything that Matt Bryant has done for this organization over the last 10 years,” Dimitroff said. “This was a difficult decision but one that was necessary for us to move forward in 2019.”
Additionally, reserve Brooks Reed was also released on Feb. 8th. In his four seasons with the Falcons, Reed did not produce much as a pass rusher, only producing seven sacks, but his departure creates $4.5 million in cap space. The Falcons need this cap space for two main objectives; to sign defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a long-term deal and to restructure wide receiver Julio Jones’ contract, as promised last off-season.
Running back Tevin Coleman is an Unrestricted Free Agent and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has said the Falcons would like to keep him alongside Devonta Freeman, but other teams may covet him more than the Falcons, and might be willing to pay a higher price. The former third round pick from Indiana tallied 1,076 total yards and nine total touchdowns in 16 games last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have determined the status on Vic Beasley. The former 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft notched only ten sacks in the last two years. If the Falcons pick up his 5th year option, Beasley will earn a base salary of $12,810,000, while carrying a cap hit of $12,810,000. Therefore, if the Falcons release him prior to March 1, the team won’t carry any dead money in the salary cap. One thing is for certain is that the focal point will be the offensive and defensive lines, in both free agency and the draft.