Now that Matt Ryan has signed a long-term deal to remain with the Falcons, G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and company won’t have to worry about giving out any more huge contracts.
Until after the 2013 season.
When the coming campaign ends, receiver Julio Jones will be eligible for a new contract, thanks to a wrinkle in the new labor deal that prevents restructuring of draft-pick contracts until the player has completed three seasons. (The old rule was two years.) Jones, along with players like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, and Colin Kaepernick, will be looking to get the money they didn’t get in 2011 for fear that they’d never earn it.
As a result, the first question when seeing the full breakdown of the Ryan contract will be the structure, from a cap standpoint. The Falcons should have loaded up as many cap dollars as possible into 2013.
Ryan already had a cap number of $12 million, and as of Thursday (per the NFLPA) the Falcons had $6.3 million in cap space. Though they need to keep some of that around for the inevitable signings that will occur throughout the season (of course, there are ways to generate cap space on the fly, too), the Falcons possibly maxed out the cap space Ryan will consume this year, knowing that Jones likely will count for a lot more next year.
There would have been no reason for Ryan to decline. For starters, Ryan needs Jones to be around. Then there’s the fact that both players are represented by the same agency, CAA.
So at some point between February 2014 and August 2014, look for Jones to be one of the 2011 draft picks who’ll finally be getting the big pile of cash he didn’t get (relatively speaking) two years ago.