This year's goal: Put a smile on this man's face.
Change is needed in Atlanta. After going 4-12, there's no question the Falcons need to embrace it and make some cost-effective moves to help set them up well for free agency.
There are some cuts, re-signings and even extensions that need to happen this offseason to set the Falcons up for their best possible 2014 cap situation. With the ability to get to nearly $40 million under the cap this offseason, the Falcons should be players in the free agent market.
Follow along for the best cap-effective moves the Falcons could make this offseason.
Cap Savings: $5.25 million in 2014
Despite being the swagger leader in the Falcon's secondary, Atlanta could save a ton of money by cutting the veteran cornerback. With Robert Alford and Robert McClain ready to play the nickel and the starting left corner spot, the Falcons could cut Samuel with minimal drop-off.
The $5.25 million savings would be better used on a pass-rusher who would only be able to help the overall defense. It would also be better used on re-signing a couple key players who have come up as free agents this offseason.
Cap Savings: $2.0 million in 2014, $5.5 million in 2015
For a great linebacker, $4.0 million or $5.5 million in a year isn't that bad. However, for Stephen Nicholas—a backup—the Falcons would be wise to cut him and improve their depth with a later-round draft pick this offseason. Depth linebackers aren't worth that kind of money.
Nicholas hasn't been a great linebacker in his career. And since the Falcons would only have to take on $2 million in dead money, they would be wise to cut him before free agency starts in early March.
Cap Savings: $2.55 million in 2014
As one of the integral parts on the defense in 2012, Biermann's injury in 2013 crippled the defense. It crippled the pass rush, and the run-stuffing was near the bottom of the league. Biermann should have a spot on the defense locked up until you take into account his Achilles injury.
While it would be completely cold and heartless to cut a man right after suffering an injury like that, Atlanta could use the cap they would save and get a truly premier defensive end/linebacker like Brian Orakpo this offseason.
Cap Savings: $3.5 million in 2014
Osi Umenyiora can still get after the passer. He's still got 10-sack potential if he's used correctly in a rotation. However, the Falcons could get similar production from Jonathan Massaquoi if they used him in a similar role and had a premier rusher on the opposite side.
Umenyiora's value to the team as a depth pass-rusher isn't worth the $3.5 million he would save the team to put towards that premier rusher. If Atlanta can combine the savings from both Biermann and Umenyiora into one top-tier guy like Michael Johnson, the Falcons could truly improve their pass rush.
Cap Savings: $3.0 million in 2014, $4.0 million in 2015 and $4.2 million in 2016.
Thomas DeCoud was a Pro Bowler in 2012. He showed deficiencies though. Most of them came from his poor tackling abilities and angles that would frustrate any defensive backs coach and coordinator. That continued in 2013, and on top of it, DeCoud quit being the playmaker in the secondary he was in coverage.
With the massive regression in his game and the tremendous savings the Falcons will get from cutting him, Atlanta would be wise to either restructure him or cut him. DeCoud could be easily upgraded in the offseason with Jairus Byrd if they structure the contracts properly.
Cap Savings: $1.375 million in 2014
Jason Snelling is a 30-year-old running back who doesn't see much action as a whole compared to Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson. However, he's making around the same amount as Rodgers is this coming season but is much easier to replace.
The Falcons could take someone in the seventh round of the draft who is almost a decade younger and pay them almost a million less this season for the same production Snelling will give them. It's been a great run for Snelling, but few running backs last past age 30 in today's NFL.
Cap Savings: $1.329 million in 2014
Despite starting 16 games the past two seasons, Reynolds is mediocre at best as a starting right guard. The Falcons need a huge upgrade there and should take one in the draft. With a potential savings of over $1.3 million, Atlanta should just cut the sixth-year guard from North Carolina.
They could have a cheaper, younger and more naturally talented backup already on the roster in Harland Gunn or Peter Konz—should Konz lose the center job again. Reynolds may not be a cap casualty until the end of training camp, but it would be wise for the Falcons to drop him.
Corey Peters should be a priority re-signing for the Falcons despite an Achilles injury he suffered against the San Francisco 49ers on the final Monday Night game of the season. He's apparently on track to be healthy right at the start of the 2014 season according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.
He's also found a niche in the scheme for the Falcons this past year with career highs in sacks, tackles and Pro Football Focus' stop statistic. The Falcons need to make sure they retain the 25-year-old defensive tackle because he can be an integral part to their scheme.
Contract Structure Example
- Four years, $16.0 million total ($20 million total through incentive possibilities)
- $7.0 million guaranteed (signing bonus, first year salary and $2.0 million of second year salary)
|Year||Base Salary||Prorated Signing Bonus||Possible Incentives*||Total Cap Hit**|
*Incentives in Pro Bowl Berths ($500k per) and Sack Numbers ($250k for 4.5 in a season, another $250k at 7.5 in a season).
**Incentives don't hit the cap until the year after they are earned, if they are earned.
Roddy White is the Falcons' longest tenured player and he has expressed interest in playing for the Falcons for another three or four seasons. However, if he wants to do so, he needs to sign an extension with the team that will keep him in Red and Black for those seasons.
While the Falcons should try to make sure they can cut down his cap hit in 2014 from around $6.3 million to a much more manageable $3.3 million, they also shouldn't overpay for a receiver who will be 32 on opening day and doesn't have more than two or three seasons left at the high level he's at.
New Contract Structure Example
- Four years, $24.3 million total
- $10.8 million guaranteed (Base Salaries in 2014 and 2015 and restructure bonus)
- $4.0 million restructure bonus
- $1.0 million roster bonus on opening day of 2015, 2016 and 2017
|Year||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Roster Bonus||Total Cap Hit|
The beauty of offensive linemen is that they can play for a long time without losing their abilities. Justin Blalock is going to be 30 heading into the 2014 season and will be a great asset on a line that is looking to have a ton of younger players on it.
However, if he truly wants to help improve the line, he'll take a simple restructure that would allow the Falcons to open up $2.43 million in cap space and help bring in someone like an Alex Mack or a Geoff Schwartz on the line to help truly push it into an NFL average group.
New Contract Structure Example
|Year||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Option Bonus||Restructure Bonus||Total Cap Hit|
Restructure Bonus totals at $3.645 million. Base Salary in 2014 reduces to $855,000.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.