Falcons will have $74 million to spend in 2023 offseason

After spending years in salary cap hell, the Falcons will have some serious cash to spend when the 2023 offseason rolls around. According to Over The Cap’s projections, the team is slated to have around $74 million in cap space next year.

Only the Chicago Bears ($119 million) are projected to have more money in 2023. Instead of using the trade deadline to try and add a big name, Atlanta offloaded two players who weren’t in the team’s current or long-term plans in Calvin Ridley and Dean Marlowe.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith stated on Wednesday that the Ridley trade had already been in the works for some time.

So how did the trade affect the team’s salary cap in 2023? Prior to moving Ridley, Atlanta was projected to have just over $60 million available this offseason. The team cleared an additional $14 million in cap space by trading the former first-round pick, bringing the 2023 total up to $74 million.

That’s a major change for Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot, who inherited an absolute mess of a cap situation when they took over in 2021. The lack of funds has hindered the team’s ability to add talent. Only after two years of moving bad contracts were the Falcons able to get out of cap hell.

The team could potentially create more space next season if Marcus Mariota doesn’t end up being in Atlanta’s long-term plans. The quarterback is playing on a two-year contract that was back-loaded. By releasing Mariota after the season, the team would free up another $12 million for 2023, bringing the total to almost $90 million without making any other moves.

This isn’t a knock on Mariota, who has the team sitting in first place, but if there’s a chance to add a franchise-changing player at the QB position, it’s worth considering.

The biggest star currently set to hit the open market next offseason is Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. While it would seem foolish for Baltimore to let Jackson walk, the fact that the two parties haven’t been able to get a deal done yet is unusual for a franchise QB.

It was reported that Jackson wants Deshaun Watson-type money, and the Falcons are one of the few teams that will have that kind of cap space. Atlanta could pay Jackson and still have enough left to go after other big names.

Fletcher Cox, Roquan Smith, Marcus Peters and Yannick Ngakoue headline the 2023 free agency class. Obviously, the Falcons don’t have to go on a spending frenzy, but it has been some time since they’ve even had the option.

Credit must go to Fontenot and Smith for cleaning up the salary cap and making the team competitive enough for us to even throw this kind of hypothetical scenario out there.

If the team can hold onto first place in the NFC South, Atlanta would become an intriguing free-agent destination in 2023.

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Story originally appeared on Falcons Wire