FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2018, file photo, New York Giants offensive guard Jamon Brown looks before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. After Matt Ryan agreed to restructure his contract to clear cap space, the Atlanta Falcons spent that money on two new starting guards, Jamon Brown and James Carpenter, to help protect the quarterback.
Photo: AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File
Photo: AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File

Falcons earn A-plus for magical money moves in free agency

1.  Impressive low-budget free agency haul. With dollars appearing to be tight, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff got creative in signing free agents this offseason.

There would be no splash moves. But the team did add some need-based quality at key positions.

“If you look around the league, we’re in a good solid spot as much as it doesn’t look to the eye,” Dimitroff said. “How are we going to be creative? ... I’ve seen some things written about a dire situation. We are not in a dire situation.”

The Falcons targeted their players and used Matt Ryan’s contract as the ATM to help them land four offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, a tight end, a returner and two safeties.

Projected starting left guard James Carpenter signed the biggest deal, a four-year $21 million contract on March 14. 

Jamon Brown, a contender a right guard, signed a three-year $18.75 million deal on March 14. 

Blocking tight end/fullback Luke Stocker signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 million.

The team got a steal when they signed Adrian Clayborn to a one-year deal worth $2 million on April 9. He received a $750,000 signing bonus. 

The Falcons retained players, too. 

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub, projected starting right tackle Ty Sambrailo and six reserves were re-signed by the Falcons. 

There will be more financial maneuvering in the coming weeks. The Falcons are $2.84 million under the salary cap, according to the NFLPA’s report.

The Falcons will need $8 million for incoming rookie class in May. 

Also, there is $4.8 million in dead money from players who have been released like kicker Matt Bryant ($1.3 million), cornerback Robert Alford ($1.2 million), tight end Levine Toilolo ($1 million), defensive end Brooks Reed ($940,000) and guard Sean Harlow ($277.000). 

The Falcons will pick up $6.45 million in cap space when tackle Ryan Schraeder’s post-June 1 designation kicks in. But will also take a $1.3 million dead-money hit. 

The Falcons could lower the salary cap by reaching a deal with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who received the team’s $15.2 million franchise tag and did not report to “phase one” of the “voluntary” offseason program on Monday. 

Carpenter, Sambrailo and Brown, if he can beat out Brandon Fusco, should stabilize the offensive line.

The offensive linemen are essentially the replacements for left guard Andy Levitre, right guard Wes Schweitzer/Ben Garland and right tackle Schraeder.

Schweitzer is still on the roster, but when they sign three people at your position, the writing is on the wall. The Falcons also signed guard Adam Gettis. 

No one is mistaking Carpenter or Brown for John Hannah, or Sambrailo for Tony Munoz, but you sense they are substantial upgrades.

For the magical money moves and apparent upgrades, give the Falcons an A-plus in free agency.  

2. Mock Draft 4.0. All things are point toward the Falcons selecting LSU cornerback Greedy Williams with the 14th over pick. We discuss in 120th episode of The Bow Tie Chronicles podcast. 

3. Falcons draft board. The Falcons are in the final stages of their preparation for the draft. The draft will be held April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn. 

On the Falcons’ draft board, we take a look a players who have worked out or have made one of the team’s top 30 visits. 

4. Schedule tonight. The NFL is set to release the 2019 schedule at 8 p.m. tonight on the NFL Network. 

Click here to look at the Falcons’ opponents for next season.

5. New Falcons. Here are the new players the Falcons signed during free agency: 

Kenjon Barner, returner: Signed a one-year contract worth $895,000 on March 15. He received a $40,000 signing bonus.

Jamon Brown, guard: He signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract, which included a $5.5 million signing bonus on March 14. 

James Carpenter, guard: Signed a four-year $21 million deal on March 14. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus.

Adrian Clayborn, defensive end: Signed a one-year contract that is worth $2 million on Tuesday, April 9. He received a $750,000 signing bonus. 

Chris Cooper, safety: Signed to a two-year contract worth $1.08 million. He has spent time with the Chiefs, Bengals and Colts.

Tyeler Davison, defensive tackle: He had a base salary of $1.9 million with the Saints last season. 

Adam Gettis, guard: Signed a one-year contract worth $805,000 with the Falcons on Thursday, April 4. He’s been bouncing around the league since 2012 and has only started one game and played in 17. 

Afolabi Laguda, safety: Signed to a two-year contract worth $.108 million. The former Brookwood High star spent last season on the Rams practice squad after going undrafted out of Colorado. 

Chris Odom, defensive end: Signed to a two-year contract. 

Luke Stocker, tight end: Signed a two-year contract worth $5.5 million on March. 15. He received a $1.5 million signing bonus.

John Wetzel, tackle: Signed to a one-year contract

William Andrews is tackled by the Colts' Cliff Odom in 1986.  Odom played 13 years in the NFL. His son Chris Odom re-signed with the Falcons on Tuesday. He has a chance to make the roster in 2019. AJC file photo
Photo: AJC file photo

6. Staying. Here are the players the Falcons re-signed with the team: 

Kemal Ishmael, linebacker: He signed a one-year, $890,000 deal on Thursday, April 4. He received a $90,000 signing bonus.

Justin Hardy, wide receiver: He signed a one-year $895,000 deal on March 22. He received a $90,000 signing bonus. 

Logan Paulsen, tight end: He signed a one-year $1.02 million deal on March 18. He received a $90,000 signing bonus.

Matt Schaub, quarterback: Signed a two-year, $3.78 million contract extension on March 12. Schaub received a $750,000 signing bonus and has a base salary of $1.03 million for 2019. His salary cap number is $1.405 for 2019. The team can exercise the option for 2020 which calls for a $2 million base salary with a salary cap number of $2.375 million. 

Ty Sambrailo, right tackle/guard: He signed a three-year contract extension that’s worth $14.25 million over three years  with escalator clauses that could push it up to $18 million , according to NFLPA documents. He received a $3 million signing bonus. The deal averages $4.75 million per year before the escalator clauses kick in for 2020 and 2021. A total of $6 million of the contract is guaranteed.

Bruce Carter, linebacker: He signed a one-year, $930,000 deal (cap number $645,000; cash value $930,000).

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback: He signed a one-year, $895,000 deal with a $90,000 signing bonus on Feb. 25. 

Steven Means, defensive end: He signed a one-year, $895,000 ($90,000 signing bonus; contract year 2019, cap number $735,000, cash value $895,000.)

7. Moving on. Here are the Falcons from last season who landed with other teams in free agency:

Jordan Richards, safety: He signed a one-year deal worth $895,000. A total of $145,000 was guaranteed. 

Bruce Irvin, defensive end/linebacker: He signed a one-year $4 million deal with the Panthers on March 19. He received a $1.4 million signing bonus. 

Brian Poole, cornerback: Signed a one-year $3.5 million deal with the Jets on March 15. He received a $2 million signing bonus. 

Brooks Reed, defensive end: He was cut and signed with Arizona. He signed a one-year $1.625 million deal on Feb. 11. He received a $250,000 signing bonus. 

Robert Alford, cornerback: He was cut and signed with Arizona. He signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal on Feb. 8. He received a $4.5 million signing bonus.

Tevin Coleman, running back: He signed a two-year $10 million deal with the 49ers.

Marvin Hall, wide receiver (exclusive rights free agent): Signed a one-year contract worth $645,000 with the Chicago Bears on March 15.

Justin Bethel, cornerback: Led the team in special teams tackles last season. He signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Ravens on March 19. He received a $1 million signing bonus. 

Former Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant just gets off the field goal for a 34-29 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the final minute Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Atlanta. Is this the end of the line for the 44-year-old kicker? 
Photo: Photo: Curtis Compton, AJC

8. Still available. Here are the Falcons who have not signed with another NFL team:

Ryan Schraeder, right tackle: He was released with a post-June 1 designation.

Matt Bryant, kicker: Team declined to exercise their option. He wants to keep playing at age 44. 

Andy Levitre, left guard: He wants to keep playing after missing most of the past two seasons with a pectoral injury. Was the opening day starter at left guard the past four seasons. 

Ben Garland, right guard: Couldn’t get the job done at guard over the past two seasons. 

Zane Beadles, offensive guard: Signed as a veteran stop-gap after Levitre and Fusco went down with injuries.  

Derrick Shelby, defensive end: Tried to play through a groin injury last season. Team released and re-signed him last season, but do not want him back this time around.

Terrell McClain, defensive tackle: He was a place holder after team couldn’t re-sign Dontari Poe. 

Joe Condo, long snapper: He was signed when Josh Harris was injured. 

9. Depth chart. With five free-agent signings since Friday, it was time update the depth chart.

Tyler Davison, a run stuffing defensive tackle, jumped ahead of Deadrin Senat on this unofficial depth charter. He’s started the past four seasons with the Saints and has more experience.

The other recent signees – defensive end Chris Odom, tackle John Wetzel, strong safety Chris Cooper and free safety Afolabi Laguda – will be reserves battling for roster spots. 

Offense

WR 11 Julio Jones, 14, Justin Hardy, 83 Russell Gage, 16 Christian Blake 

LT 70 Jake Matthews, John Wetzel, 77 Matt Gono 

LG James Carpenter, 71 Wes Schweitzer, 60 Adam Gettis

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RG 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Brandon Fusco, 64 Sean Harlow 

RT 74 Ty Sambrailo, 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 88 Luke Stocker, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert, 87 Jaeden Graham, 89 Alex Gray 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 7 Devin Gray 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill, 38 Kenjon Barner, 43 Jeremy Langford

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz, 88 Luke Stocker 

Defense

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 56 Steven Means, Chris Odom

DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 94 Deadrin Senat, 93 Michael Bennett, 79 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford, 92 Justin Zimmer 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 99 Adrian Clayborn

WLB 54 Foyesade Olukon, 42 Duke Riley, 

MLB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter 

SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 53 Jermaine Grace 

CB 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

NCB 27 Damontae Kazee, 

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 38 Taveze Calhoun 

FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman, Afolabi Laguda 

SS 22 Keanu Neal, 40 Ryan Neal, Chris Cooper 

Specialists

K 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher 

P 5 Matt Bosher 

KR 38 Kenjon Barner, 14 Calvin Ridley

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 38 Kenjon Barner 

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher 

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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