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Futures of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones remain undecided in Atlanta

Mike Florio chats with new Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith about his coaching background, building a relationship with new GM Terry Fontenot and whether Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will be on the roster in 2021.

The Falcons made it clear after the firing of coach Dan Quinn and G.M. Thomas Dimitroff that the next coach and G.M. will have a major voice in determining the futures of key players like quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.

New coach Arthur Smith recently explained in a video visit with PFT that assessments of both cornerstone players, along with the rest of the roster, have not been made.

“No decision with personnel has been made right now,” Smith said. “It’s just so early. . . . We’re just not gonna make any snap judgments. There is a long process. We’ve got to get in here with staffs. We’ve got to go through every guy on this roster. And we’re gonna take our time. There’s no decision that has to be made today. It’s not Matt and Julio, it’s every player on this roster.”

Owner Arthur Blank has said that Ryan will have a role in deciding his future, leaving the door open for a divorce initiated by the player, not by the team. In speaking with Ryan, has Arthur Smith gotten the impression that Ryan wants to stay?

“I don’t want to speak for Matt,” Smith said. “We’ve had good conversations. And I’ve got a ton of respect for Matt. I know what Matt’s about, the people that work with him. These conversations are ongoing, but I’ll never speak for one of my players. I’ll tell them, ‘You’ve got to speak for yourself.’”

The salary cap, which some believe will be $180 million in 2021, looms over both Ryan and Jones. Ryan has a cap number of $40.9 million. Of that amount, $17.9 million arises from past bonuses and restructurings. Trading him would add another $26.5 million to that total.

Thus, barring an extension that reduces Ryan’s 2021 cap number, the Falcons will carry a charge in excess of $40 million, whether he’s on the team or not. For Jones, the cap number will be in excess of $23 million, whether on the team or not.

That’s more than $63 million for two players. If the cap does indeed drop to $180 million, that leaves $117 million for the rest of the roster. Thus, either way, it will be a challenge for the Falcons to be as competitive as they can be in 2021.