The Atlanta Falcons failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season in 2019. With the offseason looming, the Falcons are going to have some tough decisions to make.
Despite missing the playoffs, head coach Dan Quinn seemingly saved his job with how Atlanta finished the season. After going 1-7 in their first eight games, the Falcons won six of their last eight contests.
As the offseason approaches, the Falcons are projected to have only $7.5 million to spend (fourth fewest), according to Spotrac. Of course, that can be subject to change depending on the roster moves that Atlanta makes.
Heading into free agency, the Falcons will have to decide on whether or not to retain a couple of defensive ends. Both Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn are slated to become unrestricted free agents in the offseason.
Depending on their market value, it’s unlikely that Atlanta can re-sign both of them or just one of them. The Falcons may have to turn to the draft to replace the pass rushers that they could be losing to free agency.
At the same time, the Falcons need to clear up some cap space if they want a chance to better their roster. What player for the Falcons could be a surprise roster cut this offseason?
The Falcons will have a few veterans to choose from that could help create some wiggle room financially. For the offensive side of the ball, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan appear to be untouchable for the foreseeable future.
On the defensive side of the ball, both Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett are seemingly locked into prominent roles moving forward. However, there is one defensive player that could be a cap casualty for the Falcons later in the offseason.
Keanu Neal is entering the final year of his rookie contract after the team exercised his fifth-year option in 2019. Therefore, the Falcons can release Neal and free up $6.5 million in cap space if they choose to do so. Unlike some of the other players on the roster, Neal wouldn’t incur a dead-cap penalty.
Without a doubt, Neal is a fan favorite in Atlanta and he performs well when he’s on the field. But over the past two seasons, the Florida product has only played in four games due to injuries.
Prior to 2018, Neal totaled 222 tackles, eight forced fumbles, and an interception in his first two seasons. The former first-round pick was headed toward receiving a lucrative contract with the team that drafted him.
There’s still a chance the Falcons find other ways—like restructuring contracts—to give them more cap space for the future. However, if they are considering cutting some players on the roster, Neal could become a possible candidate.