Falcons: Who's on the hot seat?

The Atlanta Falcons currently aren’t under a lot of salary-cap pressure. They have over $20 million to work with, but that could change in a hurry.

The Falcons are likely to re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes or use the franchise tag on him. The Falcons also have said they want to re-sign middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. Although defensive end John Abraham and his agent have made it sound like he won’t return to Atlanta, it remains possible the Falcons could bring him back if Abraham’s price tag drops from the $12 million he’s seeking. The Falcons also have several other free agents, including receiver Harry Douglas, that they’re likely to have some interest in keeping.

If most or all of those free agents are signed, the Falcons could have some salary-cap decisions to make on players currently under contract. The Falcons aren’t the type of team that likes to sit still and it’s likely they’ll be spending some significant money in free agency.

With that in mind, let’s finish our series on NFC South players that could be on the hot seat with the Falcons.

Although Mike Smith said at the combine he looks forward to left tackle Sam Baker returning, I think that might have been a case of a coach just being nice. Releasing Baker, who lost his starting job last year, would free up $2.6 million in cap space.

Fullback Ovie Mughelli has been an outstanding blocker throughout his time with the Falcons. But he’s about to turn 32 and is coming off a leg injury that cut last season short. The Falcons could save $3 million by releasing him and there are other guys out there that can block.

Defensive tackle is another position where the Falcons might have to make some big decisions. Jonathan Babineaux is coming off a very quiet year and he’ll turn 31 early next season. He’s scheduled to count $4.6 million against the cap and the Falcons could clear $3.6 million in cap space by releasing him. There might be temptation by fans to say the Falcons should release Peria Jerry instead. Understandable because Jerry hasn’t done much since getting hurt early in his rookie season (2009). But the Falcons still think Jerry has some upside. More importantly, cutting Jerry wouldn’t help the Falcons against the cap. In fact, it would hurt them. Jerry is scheduled to count $1.95 million against the cap. If the Falcons cut Jerry, they’d take a $2.2 million cap hit.