The Atlanta Falcons ripped the band-aid off and unofficially announced their rebuild in earnest with the trade of Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The actual rebuild began when the Falcons sent wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans prior to the 2021 season.
The Falcons were in such a poor financial position that they had little choice but to spread Julio Jones dead-cap hit across two seasons. Jones will count $15.5 million against the Falcons’ salary cap in 2022 as dead-cap money because of bonus payments already made to Jones when he signed his 3-year $66 million contract prior to the 2020 season.
The Falcons are taking Matt Ryan’s dead-cap hit all in 2022 and as a result have a league high $63 million in salary cap allocation that is not going to the current roster… dead cap.
Jones’ trade to the Titans didn’t work out as Tennessee had planned, and they waived him after one season despite restructuring his contract to free up cap space in 2021. They restructured it by giving him a signing bonus that now costs them $4.8 million in 2022 and $8.4 million in 2023.
Two teams have paid Julio Jones a combined $20.3 million to not be on their roster this season.
That Jones has already been compensated by two different teams could provide an opportunity for a third team to get him on the cheap this season. Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus (PFF) thinks a reunion with Ryan with the Indianapolis Colts could be in the cards.
“It just makes way too much sense given the Colts’ need at wide receiver and Jones’ previous connection with new Indianapolis quarterback Matt Ryan,” wrote Kyed.
“But a ton of teams still need wide receiver help. In that piece, I also had wide receivers going to the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. The Bears have since acquired wide receiver N’Keal Harry via trade, so that helps fill a need.”
“I know veteran players view the Ravens, Colts, Packers and even New England Patriots as attractive landing spots for a wide receiver.”
It would be the height of irony if Jones reunited with Matt Ryan in Indianapolis. The Falcons would be subsidizing the Colts roster to the tune of $55 million in dead-space for money already paid to Ryan and Jones.
Jones comes with big risks though. He hasn’t been healthy in two years, and he’s coming off his worst year of his career. Jones is 33-years old, not an age where skill players typically reinvent themselves.
If the Colts can get him on a cheap, low-risk deal it might be worth it for them to take a flyer on Jones.
If Jones and Ryan are suiting up for Indianapolis in 2022, Colts games might see a spike in television ratings in Atlanta.