Unfortunately, 2005 didn’t end as we had hoped. However, what’s done is done and now it’s on to 2006, where hope springs eternal. There are many questions to be answered this offseason and none may be as large as the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement is key to this offseason as it sets the limits on what the Falcons can and can’t do financially to improve the team. There are several roster bonuses, option bonuses and other incentive clauses that could be converted to signing bonus (thus freeing up large amounts of cap space) providing the CBA is extended. If it’s not extended then not only are those restructuring ideas made more difficult but there is also the possibility of a work stoppage. The uncapped season scheduled in 2007 is not beneficial for anyone and would most likely open up the perverbial Pandora’s box. Hopefully, this issue will be solved in March.
Onto what lies ahead. The Falcons are roughly $9.5 million OVER the cap. That means there will be cuts, restructures, and extensions as usual. Michael Vick has a $7.5 million roster bonus due (part of the guaranteed money of his latest extension) and it will be converted to signing bonus which would spread it out over 4 years without the CBA extension and 7 with it. Even at 4 years, this one move would free up $5.625 million.
Although unconfirmed, I believe that DeAngelo Hall is due an option bonus of roughly $6.5 million this offseason. If this is the case, that would certainly be converted to signing bonus and would get the team on the positive side of the cap ledger.
Patrick Kerney enters the last year of the deal and with a cap charge of $8.842 million, I’m sure the team is looking to work out an extension here. A best guess scenario would be a savings of $2 to 3 million may be possible here.
Warrick Dunn presents a large problem this offseason. He’s restructured previously and now faces a year where he’ll count $8.5 million against the cap. The team will either re-work this deal somehow or cut him outright and save about $4 million. I am of the opinion that an extension might be worked out and still save the same amount.
Todd Weiner comes up on the last year of his deal and at a cap charge of $4.6 million will most likely face being cut at a savings of $3.5 million or be extended out at a substantial savings.
Brady Smith is another player entering his last year. At a charge of $3.075 million, the team may look elsewhere for a RDE. Smith is 33 and has missed extensive amounts of practice time the last two seasons and missed well over half the season last year.
There are certainly holes to fill but there is definitely ample opportunity to create the room to fill them. McKay and company have many options and decisions ahead of them and some have most likely already been made. The next month will tell a lot.