Ranking Falcons five-biggest salary cap bargains: Todd Gurley on a prove-it deal is a heist


The Atlanta Falcons don’t have the best cap situation in the NFL, owning just $11,024,351 in available cap space for 2020 and just $59,237 available in 2021 (per Over The Cap) — a direct result of having a bevy of former first-round picks on the roster. Atlanta just doesn’t have plenty of salary cap bargains for a talented roster that is in “win-now” mode. 

Matt Ryan’s deal comes full circle in 2021, as he’s owed an estimated $119.1 million over the next three years. That makes life difficult for the Falcons to build a roster around him, even though most of their top players have already been signed to lucrative extensions. 

For now, the Falcons do have some salary cap bargains for 2020, ones that can pay huge dividends for a team with division title aspirations. We’ll take a look at some of those bargains for 2020 and determine the biggest salary cap deals on the roster this year:

1. Todd Gurley

If the Falcons get the version of Gurley that was arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2017 and the majority of 2018, this one-year deal is an absolute steal. Gurley led the NFL with 2,556 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns over those two seasons, leading the league in rushing touchdowns in back-to-back years. He was also third in the NFL with 4.78 yards per carry during that span (minimum 300 carries). 

Gurley’s cap number is just $5.5 million, at the age of 25 years old (he’ll be 26 later this year). Even with the knee issues that affected him during the 2019 season, Gurley is still second in the NFL in rushing yards (3,413) and first in rushing touchdowns (42) over the last three years. 

Gurley is still the 10th-highest paid running back in the NFL, but the Falcons really aren’t paying much for a running back that is entering his prime. Imagine the bargain this will be if Gurley puts up close to 2017 or 2018 numbers. 

2. Calvin Ridley

Ridley has only been in the NFL for two years, but he’s one of the best No. 2 wideouts in the game at just 25 years old. He recorded 127 catches for 1,687 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 29 games as the second option to Julio Jones. 

Ridley caught 10 touchdowns in his rookie campaign and finished with 63 catches last year — just one off the 64 he had his rookie year. The Falcons are only paying the 2018 first-round pick $2,972,927 this season, making him the 56th-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. 

Atlanta is getting excellent value out of Ridley on his rookie deal as he has become one of Matt Ryan’s most reliable receivers.

3. Matt Ryan 

Speaking of the Falcons franchise quarterback, Ryan has the highest total value for a signal caller in the NFL at $150 million. So how did Ryan make the list of the biggest cap bargains?

Ryan only has a cap number of $18,962,500 in 2020, the final year his cap hit is under the $36 million mark over the life of his record-setting deal. The Falcons did an excellent job of pushing the cap hit on Ryan’s contract as far as they could, making him a salary cap bargain as Ryan has thrown for 4,000 yards for nine consecutive seasons and has the second-most passing yards (41,135) and the fifth-most touchdowns (255) during that span. 

Ryan is the 16th-highest paid quarterback in football this year, even through he averages $30 million per season in his contract. For 2020, this deal is a bargain. 

4. Dante Fowler Jr.

The Falcons just signed Fowler to a three-year, $45 million deal, but his cap number in year one is very team friendly. Fowler has a cap number of $6,666,666 in 2020 before that inflates to over $18.6 million the next two seasons (not good for the Falcons). 

Fowler is the 38th-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL, even though he recorded 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 35 pressures, and 16 quarterback hits in his breakout season with the Los Angeles Rams. Whether Fowler can emulate his 2019 success with a new team this season will be determined, but his contract definitely favors Atlanta in year one of the massive deal. 

5. Hayden Hurst

The Falcons don’t have many bargains, as evidenced by their limited amount of cap space. This is where the gamble on Hurst comes into play. 

Atlanta traded a 2020 second and fifth-round pick for Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick, banking the tight end on his rookie deal can reach his potential. Hurst has just 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in his two NFL seasons, but has only started four games in his career.  

Hurst will be the No. 1 tight end in Atlanta and will have a chance to shine as a No. 3 option in the passing game for Ryan. Austin Hooper has the fourth-most catches (195) and fifth-most receiving yards (1,973) over the past three seasons, so the Falcons focus on the tight end heavily in their offense. 

They are banking on Hurst and his $1,483,276 cap number in 2020 — the 53rd-highest paid tight end in the NFL — to come close to that production. 





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