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How much cap space do the Atlanta Falcons have in 2021?

We break down the projected available cap space in 2021 for the Falcons and notable contract situations.

 Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Salary cap space

As of March 17, 2021, the Falcons are projected to be $20,995,129 over the cap for 2021.

The Falcons rolled over $1.8 million in 2020 cap space.

March 10 update: The salary cap has been set at $182.5 million.

The Atlanta Falcons 2020 season ended like it began, with a five-game losing streak. The team wrapped up a disappointing year with a 4-12 record. The first thing on their offseason to-do list was to find a new head coach and general manager, after the franchise gave Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff their pink slips last fall.

Whoever they hire as their next general manager, that person is going to have their work cut out for them. The roster is top heavy with aging stars, and the team’s going to have to dig its way out of a deep salary cap hole as it begins the rebuilding process.

The NFL powered through its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums, and limited fans in a handful of locations. The decrease in gate revenue is going to result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means the salary cap has been decreased. The NFL has announced an official salary cap of $182.5 million, which is sure to result in some tough choices for many teams.

All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.

Notable contracts

Complicating Atlanta’s cap situation even further is that this number represents just 31 players under contract for 2021, as of January.

Every conversation about Atlanta’s offseason has to start with quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. Together, the two take up almost 36 percent of the team’s total cap space in 2021, and while both players at 35 and 31, respectively, still have a few good years left to play, they should both be seen as a luxury item for a team in the rebuilding process and more than $24 million in the hole for cap space.

Cutting Ryan would leave $49 million in dead cap space this year and dig them another $9 million into the cap hole. Cutting him with a post-June 1 designation, however, saves the team more than $17 million in cap space and leaves them with over $23 million in dead cap space. Better yet, they could trade him, with a post-June 1 designation, and save $23 million against the cap, and get at least something in return for a 35-year-old signal caller who could push another team into contention.

A more likely scenario is dealing Jones. Injuries took their toll on the 31-year-old receiver this season, but an offseason of rest and rehab would give his hamstring time to heal. Dealing him with a post-June 1 designation would save $15.3 million in cap space.

One easy cut to make is Dante Fowler, Jr. The pass rusher who had just three sacks this season is due $6 million in guaranteed salary this year with an $18,666,666 cap hit. Cutting him post-June 1 would save $8 million in cap space.

Left tackle Jake Matthews has a $20 million cap hit, but he’s not due any guaranteed salary. He’s an easy candidate for restructuring, and a player they’d be well advised to hang onto. The same goes for linebacker Deion Jones and his $12.6 million cap hit.