Teams sometimes try to sign a core nucleus of top players to expensive contracts in an effort to make a Super Bowl run, and then worry about the salary cap consequences later. The long-term effectiveness of that strategy is debatable, but it at least ought to produce a good team in the short term.
What the Atlanta Falcons are doing is something different: They’re one of the worst teams in the league, and they simultaneously have the worst salary cap situation in the league heading into 2020.
As noted by Zack Moore of OverTheCap.com, the Falcons project to be $8.7 million over the cap next year based only on the players they currently have under contract, before they draft any rookies or sign any free agents.
That’s largely a result of spending big money on a few key players, most notably Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who all by themselves are expected to count for 27 percent of the Falcons’ salary cap next year. The five most expensive players on the Falcons (Ryan, Jones, Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett and Desmond Trufant) are slated to cost more than half the salary cap. Five players. More than half of the entire salary cap.
Keep going down the roster to the Top 10 players, the Top 22 players, or however you want to slice it, and the end result is the same: The Falcons have an extraordinary amount invested in the top of their roster, which leaves precious little cap space for the rest of the roster. Next year they’re going to have to fill a lot of holes with league-minimum-salary players.
And maybe that would be OK, if the highly paid stars at the top of the roster were capable of carrying a team all by themselves. But they’re not. The Falcons are 1-6 with those highly paid stars. There’s absolutely no reason to believe they’ll be any better next year.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said after Sunday’s loss that he still supports head coach Dan Quinn. Perhaps he realizes that the Falcons’ roster has been constructed so poorly that no coach can turn them around any time soon.