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How Bad Are Falcons' Salary Cap Problems?

OvertheCap analyzed every NFL team's roster and salary cap position, and it's worse than you thought for the Atlanta Falcons.

The Atlanta Falcons parted ways with long-time general manager Thomas Dimitroff in November of 2020. They fired head coach Dan Quinn at the same time.

READ MORE: Atlanta Falcons Season Preview

Jason Fitzgerald, founder of Overthecap.com, shows Dimitroff left the Falcons and new general manager Terry Fontenot in the worst position in the NFL.

Fitzgerald looked at the value of the contracts of each team and charted it against available cap space for 2022. The Falcons come off worse than any other NFL team using this criteria ... by an alarming amount.

Fitzgerald summarized the position the Falcons are in for 2021 and 2022, with a grim conclusion:

"Finally the bottom left is a rough spot," wrote Fitzgerald. "These are teams who don’t have the high valued rosters and do not have good cap projections for next year. These teams are likely a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) situation for two years which can be very difficult if the team winds up flopping this year. The Giants and Rams are right at the edge of this while the Falcons and Eagles are in a bad spot."

While having an expensive roster doesn't necessarily translate to success, the Falcons have the least amount of money put into their active roster.

Simultaneously, the Falcons are also in the bottom five of NFL teams in available cap space for 2022. The Falcons are actually already over the 2022 salary cap before a single player has been drafted or free agent signed.

Making improvements to the team via free agency isn't impossible, but it means Fontenot will be shopping for bargains.

The Falcons salary cap is being cannibalized by players who no longer play for them. This is referred to as dead cap space by the NFL.

How does a team get dead cap space?

It starts with the signing bonus. If a player signs a five-year $50 million contract, but the entire $50 million is given as a signing bonus in the first year, his salary cap hit is just $10 million per season.

But if that player is no longer on the roster, the multiple of what is left in years can at best be spread across two years.

So if that same player is traded after his first year, $40 million can be spread across two seasons as dead cap space. That's $40 million that can't be put back on the field in the form of personnel, because it counts against the team's salary cap. The NFL salary cap for 2021 is $182.5 million.

Atlanta is carrying $22 million in dead cap space this year. Former Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Desmond Trufant make up nearly $14 million of that number. Jones' dead cap number is $15.5 million in 2022 before his contract is completely off the books.

Fans who clamored for Matt Ryan to be moved in the offseason didn't understand the ramifications a move would have on the Falcons finances. Ryan carries a $65.4 million dead cap hit for 2021.

That's more than one-third of the total salary cap.

Ryan's dead cap number drops to $40 million in 2022 making it unrealistic, but not impossible, for a move could happen next season.

READ MORE: Why Crazy Matt Ryan Trade Proposal isn't so Crazy

With the roster and cap situation left behind by Dimitroff, Fontenot has his work cut out for him to improve the Falcons roster. Much of it will have to be done in the NFL Draft.

The early returns on 2021 draft picks such as tight end Kyle Pitts, safety Richie Grant and offensive linemen Jalen Mayfield and Drew Dalman among others has been positive.

Falcons fans will get to see the new-look Falcons on Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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