Rebuilding A Franchise: The Atlanta Falcons

I have decided to try my hand at rebuilding NFL teams that seem to be on the down swing. I will do everything from draft picks, trades, and salary cap fixes. I may not be perfect or exact. So lets start with salary cap issues.

Salary Cap

Falcons 2020 Salary Cap – $2,255,517 available.

Falcons 2021 Salary Cap as of now – -$25,254,296

Going into 2021 the Falcons will be extremely strapped for cap relief. Matt Ryan will become 23% of the available cap. Julio Jones will account for 12.9% also. Having 35% tied up in your aging stars is not what this franchise needs. I will discuss that issue later though. The Todd Gurley contract will be coming off the books after this season opening up just over five million in cap relief.

So we need to free up cap space as we start this rebuild. Being able to move major pieces are not going to be easy. Moving on from Matt Ryan is something I think might be needed but cutting or trading him is almost impossible with the way his contract is structured. After next season in 2021 is where I begin this rebuild fully. Trading Julio now would cost you almost twenty two million in dead cap space for 2021. You will need to free up money to sign Calvin Ridley and he is going to need close to what Julio Jones is getting. While we can not move on from the past just yet we can free up some space by cutting or trading Left Tackle Jake Matthews. If Matthews is cut or traded after June 1st his dead cap hit drops almost eleven million in 2021 and could be roughly twelve million in 2022. This isn’t ideal but on the offensive side it frees up the most money when we move on. Alex Mack is also a free agent after this season and will be 35. I’m fine letting him walk away. This frees up another ten million in salary.

Moving on from Mack, Matthews, and Gurley so far has freed up the twenty five million we were in the hole. Now let’s focus on the defensive side, which lets be honest has vastly under performed. First move for me here is letting Keanu Neal walk. He has played one full season since he was drafted in 2016. That clears another six million. Going into the June 1st deadline I would also be looking to move on from Dante Fowler, yes I know he just signed before the 2020 season. His cap money and lack of production this season have costed the Falcons almost seven million and it goes up from there, quite a bit actually. Fowler has a salary of over eighteen million in 2021, cutting him or trading him gives you a cap saving in 2021 of eight million and only costs fifteen million over two years in dead cap money. I know these may not be popular moves with the fan base. The savings to a rebuilding franchise could really benefit them.

One Big Trade Idea

Now that we have freed up almost fourty-five million in cap space and cleared out some older guys, we can start the rest of the process. Here is where it will get extremely dicey for you Falcons fans. Make sure you are sitting down for this, trading Julio Jones is something that needs to happen. Trading him after June 1st in 2021 does cost you almost eight million in dead cap for 2021 and fifteen million is dead cap in 2022. It does open up fifteen million in cap savings in 2021 also. So what does an aging star wide receiver get on the trade market? He will be 32 years old but Julio is a game changer in the right offense.

  • Trade Julio to Baltimore as the Hollywood Brown run is a full fail.
    • Baltimore offers a 2nd round 2022 pick, a 4th round 2022 pick, and a 5th in 2023.
    • The Bears offer a 1st round pick in 2022, and a 5th in 2022.

I said before this is about a full rebuild, I take the Bears deal and add a 2022 1st rounder. Julio goes to a team that could be headed for a playoff birth that has lost Allen Robinson the year prior to free agency. They will have drafted a new franchise quarterback also.

Now we take on the front office and coaching staff. Here I will list three coaches and three General Managers I would interview. After the debacle that was Mike Smith and Dan Quinn, it’s time to go with an offensive head coach. Also I would like to pair a good drafting GM with a coach that will help develop these young players the team drafts.

Front Office Moves

My top three candidates for GM are

  • Dan Morgan – Director of Player Personnel for the Bills. They have drafted pretty well and built a winner in Buffalo
  • Martin Mayhew – VP of Player Personnel for the 49ers. What more do I need to say about someone in that organization that hasn’t been said. They are solid from top to bottom.
  • Trent Kirchner – Co-Director of Player Personnel for the Seahawks. It may not seem like they draft to well but Russ, DK, and Lockett would disagree.

My top three coaching candidates – (Look we all want someone like Eric Bieniemy but I think he doesn’t come to Atlanta. So let’s go beyond that.

  • Nathaniel Hackett – OC for the Packers, I think he could fit well with Matt Ryan and also help the next quarterback as the rebuild begins. Keep in mind he was also the OC in Jacksonville when they went to the AFC title game.
  • Byron Leftwich – Bryon is an Bruce Arians guy, very smart offensively, and could really help a young QB grow.
  • Brian Daboll – This choice would be amazing, Daboll has worked under both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. Successful at every stop he has been at, he has turned Josh Allen into an MVP candidate and that Bills offense has become explosive.

So now it is time to hire my choices.

  • Dan Morgan is the new GM
  • Brian Daboll is the new Head Coach

Pairing these two together from Buffalo feels really smart and brings in a certain culture.

1st Round Ideas

While we don’t know who will all be in the draft it appears we will see a top 10 pick in Atlanta.

Moving on from most of the defensive pieces to clear cap space, I think the Falcons may focus on getting a legit cornerstone defensive player in the first round. Although with the draft class that is coming in of QBs, now might be the time to bring in a young man to learn the offense and sit behind Matt Ryan for a year. Here are my choices to do at #10 if available. If we get into top 5 that would be even better.

  • Trey Lance – North Dakota State – Big kid with a big arm, pairing him with Calvin Ridley makes the new Ryan to Julio for years to come.
  • Gregory Rousseau – Miami – This is a steal at ten. Rousseau is a instant difference maker with double digit sack potential immediately.
  • Rashawn Slater – Northwestern – If the Falcons move on from Jake Matthews like I would then Slater will be the 2nd OT off the board shoring up the tackle position.

Building from the inside out on a team is how I would like to do it. Start building your lines before dumping a brand new QB behind a depleted line. Plus we gained a pick from the Julio trade.

Under the Radar Free Agent Move

I know I have spoke about cutting cap and being cheap. One under the radar move I think the Falcons should make to fill the role Todd Gurley leaves is signing Marlon Mack. You could get Mack for cheap coming off the injury on a prove it deal. I feel like he was very under rated while in Indianapolis. He is still only 25 years old.

It maybe a tough few years for the Falcons but things will get brighter with the new staff and realizing it is time to move on from aging players.

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