Falcons restructure Matt Ryan’s contract, get $12 million in salary-cap money

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Just a few days before the NFL’s legal tampering period opens Monday, the Falcons created $12 million in salary-cap space by restructuring quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract Friday, according to NFL Media.

Ryan is scheduled to make $23.75 million in salary in 2022. His cap number was set to be $48.66 million. Ryan has restructured his contract four times to help the Falcons. He signed a six-year, $150 million contract in 2017.

The Falcons will focus on re-signing their own players and then do some value shopping after all of the free-agent blockbuster deals are done. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said the Falcons would not nake a bunch of deals early on at the start of free agency.

“The first thing we have to do is create low cap space,” Fontenot said. “Then, No. 1 is our players, and we have a lot of players ... that we want to re-sign.”

The Falcons got underneath the $208.2 million salary cap when wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended indefinitely for gambling on NFL games.

The Falcons have made other moves already.

Outside linebacker Dante Fowler and offensive tackle-guard Matt Gono were released. Also, linebacker Duke Ejiofor, who signed a reserve/futures contract Jan. 13, was released with a non-football related injury.

Tight end Hayden Hurst, who didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up last season, will not return to the team.

The Falcons’ top free agents are running back Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver Russell Gage, linebacker Foye Oluokun, kicker Younghoe Koo, punter Thomas Morestead and Pro Bowl long snapper Josh Harris.

The Falcons don’t have enough money to pursue top edge rushers Von Miller or Chandler Jones, although there is one report linking the Falcons to Jones. Also defensive backs J.C. Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu and wide receiver Allen Robinson are some of the top veterans set to hit the open market.

Robinson, who’s set to turn 29 in August, played the past four seasons in Chicago and is a year removed from a 102-catch season. He’s familiar with Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and quarterbacks coach Charles London.

While the Falcons do not appear to have enough space to go after Miller or Jones, there are other players who fit their outside linebacker profile.

Lorenzo Carter, Arden Key and Haason Reddick could be upgrades for the Falcons, who ranked last in the league with 19 sacks last season.

Carter, who was taken in the third round (68th overall) of the 2018 draft, has played four seasons with the Giants. A former Georgia standout from Norcross High, who’s 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Carter has played in 49 NFL games with 33 starts. He had 14.5 sacks and 153 tackles.

Key, who was taken in the third round (87th overall) of the 2018 draft, played his first three seasons with the Raiders and came on over the second half of last season with the 49ers.

Key, 6-5, 240 pounds, has played in 54 games and made 10 starts. He has 9.5 career sacks and 71 tackles.

Reddick, who was taken in the first round (13th overall) by Arizona in 2017, has 23.5 sacks and 99 pressures over the past two seasons. Reddick, who’s 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, played four seasons with the Cardinals and posted 11 sacks last season with the Panthers.

“We have to look at each specific player, evaluate the player and look at the parameters of the type of contract that we can sign,” Fontenot said. “What makes sense for us. We have to stay disciplined with that because we’re not trying to sign one player. We’re trying to build a team.”

The Falcon had some informal meetings with agents.

Fontenot noted that contracts of Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones also have high salary-cap numbers. They have the option to do extensions, restructures, reductions and outright cuts with a June 1 designation.

Fontenot said the situations would be fluid.

“We have to make sure we assess the value and stay within our parameters with every player,” Fontenot said.

The Falcons know they are not in a position to sign all of their free agents.

“It’s important for players to assess their market value along with their agents and their families and find the best situation for them because they have a small amount of time to make as much money as they can,” Fontenot said.

The Bow Tie Chronicles