Skip to main content

Bair Mail: On Russell Gage, Calvin Ridley and the receiver position, NFL free agency and possible contract extensions


Another Monday, another Bair Mail coming your way.

Hope everyone had a great weekend, saw Kyle Pitts catch a touchdown in the Pro Bowl, and took some time with family during the first non-NFL weekend in a long time.

I know I did.


The Falcons front office was busy grinding on NFL Draft meetings after the Senior Bowl practice week, as the team prepares for a busy offseason.

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have some tough and impactful decisions to make about the future of the franchise.

We address several of those in this edition of the mailbag.

Nathan Billings from Atlanta, Ga.

Hey Bair, So I've seen a lot on the Ridley trade rumors going on and what the value of him would be on the open trade market draft capital wise (2nd or 3rd round pick). This would be a huge cap clearance for us (11 mil from what I've seen). Do you think this would allow us to sign a not as pricey WR (ju-ju, gallup, chark, kirk) that could be our WR1? I personally think signing chark would be a great addition with what he was able to do in Jacksonville before his injury when they didn't have the best QB play.

Bair: The Falcons have a lot of work to do at the receiver position, and a lot of uncertainty surrounding their current personnel. Will Calvin Ridley be back? The Falcons say they’ll continue to support him. Russell Gage is about to hit the open market. Will they re-sign him?

If Ridley is moved, they only have Frank Darby under contract. They'll have to add several to assemble the depth chart. I believe they should re-sign Gage if his market doesn't go nuts, draft a pass catcher in the middle rounds and find guys everywhere good at creating yards after the catch. There are some interesting option in free agency’s middle tier, including Emmanuel Sanders or Will Fuller, who might be had on strong one-year deals. Marquez Valdes-Scantling could be an option as well.

In terms of a Ridley trade possibility, there just isn't a lot to go on at this point. The Falcons should be able to get a quality return in a trade – I think a second-round pick would be fair – but his status will impact how the team moves forward at the position.

Barry Wyn from Rex, Ga.

When the Ides of March rolls in we should get a better idea of what the Falcons may or may not do in free agency especially pertaining to their own roster. Don't you think that this free agent period will resemble last year's free agency class in its frugality?

Bair: I do think it will have a similar feel, Rex, even if they're able to create more salary-cap flexibility. The Falcons are still working to get out from under their cap issues, and it will take discipline to work their way out of them. That means avoiding the big deals with large signing bonuses to bring outside talent in. I'm sure they'll work to retain some of their own on longer-term pacts – Foye Oluokun's someone I would push to keep – but I would expect to see several one-year deals and high roster turnover again this season. That'll become less of a factor as the Falcons move forward, though, once they get through the tough period.

Jeremy Smith from Newnan, Ga.

Thanks for answering one of my questions last week. Should the Falcons think about taking Travon Walker or Nakobe Dean in the first or second round? They could really help the Falcons defense.

Bair: Those guys could help most any defense, Jeremy, including the Falcons. But I don't think they'll be in position to take either guy unless they trade back. Neither player is probably worthy of the No. 8 overall slot but won't be around when the Falcons pick in the second round. A move into the late teens or early 20s may make that more of a possibility, but that would be a big drop and they'd have to get a haul from the trade partner.

Take a look at some of our favorite images of Matt Ryan and the entire Atlanta Falcons squad from the 2021-22 season.

Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.

Scott, thanks for the column. It's a great outlet for us fans. One of your answers to a question on the 4th got me thinking. You said, "don't want to hamstring yourself by kicking cap numbers down the line ". This, as we know, is why the Falcon are in cap trouble now. My question is while you don't want to do it, of Atlanta's current players who may they look at feel they have to restructure their contracts to be pushed down the road? Could it be Jones, Ryan, Mathews, Jarrett? Is there a candidate they will have to look at?

Bair: The best opportunity to do so is with Grady Jarrett. He's nearing the end of his deal and could free up some 2022 cap space with an extension set with bigger payouts down the line, when they will have established more cap flexibility. Will the Falcons go down that route? I'm not sure. With Matt Ryan and Deion Jones, those deals have been re-done so often that they've created outlandish cap numbers the Falcons are now dealing with. I think they're in a position to swallow a large pill and push through these deals until they're able to get taken off the books.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott, could you explain the term "dead money" as it relates to the salary cap? I thought that if you traded a player, his whole cap number goes with him. Not true? Thanks.

Bair: Good question, Will. This stuff can be complicated. Dead money is a cap charge for a player who has been cut or traded before his contract expired. Certain types of bonuses can be pro-rated over a maximum of five years, and any remaining part of that proration are pushed onto the current year's cap. When you restructure a deal, you're generally adding to the prorations at increasing future cap numbers and dead money hits. That's why it isn't great to keep doing that.

We won't get into June 1 designations here, but there are a few exceptions to the rule. Bottom line: dead money is an amount that can't be spent on personnel, shrinking a team's ability to sign players to fortify a roster.

Call for questions


Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast

Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.

Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.

Related Content