Falcons set to clear space for Ryan’s new deal

Credit: Patrick Smith

Credit: Patrick Smith

It’s salary-cap casualty season around the NFL and the Falcons, who are working on an extension for quarterback Matt Ryan, are close to making some moves.

“We all know that as we start nearing the signing of quarterbacks in this league, and especially quarterbacks of Matt Ryan’s status, you have to be very creative,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on 680 The Fan’s (Nick) Cellini & (Chris) Dimino show on Monday. “There are going to be some difficult moves for us to make probably early next week and into next week.”

The interview was taped on Friday, so those moves could this week before team heads to the scouting combine, which runs Tuesday through March 5.

In year’s past, the Falcons have been ruthless during this portion of the offseason.

In 2013, running back Micheal Turner, sackmaster John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson were released. The Falcons saved $15.9 million in salary-cap space.

Last season, the Falcons elected not to re-sign defensive tackles Jonathan Babnineaux and released Tyson Jackson, which cleared room to add defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

Already this offseason around the league, the Bucs released running back Doug Martin (saving $6.75 million) and the Texans released linebacker Brian Cushing (saving $7.65 million).

The Falcons have some salary-cap casualty candidates. But they’ll likely try to re-negotiate with some of them before showing them the door.

Left guard Andy Levitre, who ended last season on injured reserve with a torn triceps, is a salary-cap casualty candidate. So is defensive end Brooks Reed. The Falcons can save $7 million by cutting Levitre and $3.6 by cutting Reed.

The $10.6 million in savings would give the Falcons more room to sign Ryan, Poe, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, kicker Matt Bryant and also leave room for other lower level signings.

Other cap casualty candidates include quarterback Matt Schaub (3.25 million), defensive tackle Derrick Shelby ($3.2 million), wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ($3.1 million) and tight end Levine Toilolo ($2.5 million).

Ryan’s extension could reduce his salary cap number from $19.25 million to between $9 million and $12 million depending on the structure of the deal.

Last season, the Falcons signed Poe, a cap casualty with the Chiefs. He played well for the Falcons and helped the defense improve, especially against run. With Poe taking up blockers, Grady Jarrett received more one-on-one situations and thrived.

“We are spending a lot time comparing free agency to what may be out there in the draft, of course, at this point,” Dimitroff said. “We are always discussing, who may be a cap casualty. Those are projections of course. ... Sometimes we may think we are able to retain a certain player, but it may not work out financially for us. Those can be very difficult decisions.”

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