Yesterday the Falcons released offensive lineman Matt Gono who had been a key reserve for the Falcons in 2020, primarily being the backup offensive tackle for the team. The Falcons liked Gono enough to somewhat surprisingly apply the 2nd round RFA tender to Gono last year when his rookie contract expired. Gono signed the offer sheet and was under contract through the end of 2021. That is what brought up questions about his release- if he was going to be a free agent why release him rather than just letting his contract expire?
Gono falls into the rare category that impacts a handful of players every year. Gono had offseason surgery last year and never recovered from the injury. He spent the entire year on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the Falcons. Players who are in their final contract year and spend the entire season on the PUP list (or NFI list or a few other reserve lists) will have their contracts toll to the following season preventing the player from being a free agent.
With Gono’s contract tolling the Falcons would have had to account for $3.384 million on the 2022 salary cap for him if they did not release him. The 2nd round tender may have been a mistake in the first place in 2021 and there would be no logical reason, especially given the Falcons cap situation, to carry him while trying to come up with a lower number that fit more in with their salary cap. It is possible that this is what Atlanta tried to do this past week and when they did not come to an agreement just terminated the contract. Gono’s contract could still be claimed by another team on waivers.
So for those who think that Atlanta may have given up a potential compensatory pick by releasing Gono early no that did not happen. They were simply clearing their books for the upcoming season. The Falcons are currently estimated to be about $5 million over the 2022 salary cap and approximately $11 million over when counting the salaries of their draft picks following Gono’s release.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.