FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- First up on the offseason agenda for the Atlanta Falcons is to get ready for free agency.
After the defending NFC champs were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday by the Eagles, there are some key personnel decisions to make before the new business year rolls around in March.
The NFL salary cap has been projected to be between $174 million and $178 million, according to NFL Media. The official number will not be known until March.
Last season's salary cap was $167 million. The Falcons are in the bottom third of the league and are projected to have $18 million in available salary-cap space.
They can cut some players and renegotiate some deals in order to create some more room.
The 49ers, Browns, Jets and Colts are projected to have more than $80 million in salary-cap space can and that could drive up the market for players that the Falcons want to retain.
Poe played this past season on an incentive-laden contract, which had a base salary of $8 million. He bet on himself and had a solid season. He played 868 defensive snaps, the second highest on the team behind defensive tackle Grady Jarrett's 870. He also played eight snaps on offense.
Poe was the seventh-highest paid defensive tackle in the league. The Dolphins' Ndamukong Suh is slated to be the highest paid defensive tackle in the league at $16.9 million next season.
Clayborn led the team in sacks with 10.5. He played 576 snaps, the third-highest total along the defensive line. He had the 21st highest base salary of defensive ends in the league. Brooks Reed was 17th with a base salary of $4.1 million.
Bryant will turn 43 on May 29, but showed no signs of slowing down. He was the Falcons' key offensive weapon last season and the reason they reached the playoffs and won a game on the road. He made nine field goals in the two playoff games.
Bryant was the 11th-highest paid kicker in the league last season at $1.45 million. The Panthers' Graham Gano and the Cowboys' Dan Bailey were the top-paid kickers at $3.2 million in 2017.
In addition to the big three, fullback Derrick Coleman and Ben Garland, who finished the season at the starting left guard, are also set to become free agents.
Garland's situation will be tied to the decision on whether to bring back starting left guard Andy Levitre, who's set to make $7 million in 2018. He suffered a torn triceps and missed three full games and played just five snaps in one game.
Other projected unrestricted free agents include wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, linebacker Kemal Ishmael, returner Andre Roberts, defensive tackles Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin, offensive tackle Austin Pasztor, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Jordan Tripp, cornerback Leon McFadden and wide receiver Nick Williams.
REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus - The Falcons called a sprint-out to the right on fourth-and-2 with the game on the line. The Eagles knew the play. Jones fell down, but got back up and nearly made a circus catch on a jump-ball pass that Ryan tossed up for him. The pass fell incomplete. Ryan's touchdown pass to Freeman looked like part shovel pass and part shot put as he bounced up on one leg and heaved it across his body into the end zone. Ryan moved the ball around to six receivers. Mohamed Sanu had a 24-yard reception in the second quarter. With the Falcons down 12-10 and needing a drive, Freeman failed to pick up blitzing safety Rodney McLeod on first down. The Falcons couldn't overcome the 10-yard loss and were forced to punt. Jones caught nine passes for 101 yards. Ryan completed 22-of-36 passes for 210 yards.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C - Freeman wasn't healthy and shouldn't have been playing with a sprained knee. The Falcons were determined to run the ball outside against the Eagles. They tested defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan on the interior sparingly. During the opening drive, on first-and-10 from the Eagles' 17-yard line, they tried to run up the middle, but Cox split a double-team block from center Alex Mack and right guard Wes Schweitzer. Cox dropped Freeman for a 1-yard loss. Cox had his way most of the day. The Falcons continued to use tackle Ty Sambrailo as a blocking tight end. Freeman struggled on his stretch runs, while Coleman was able to work the edges. The Eagles entered the game with the league's top-ranked run defense, which gave up 79.2 yards per game in the regular season. Coleman rushed 10 times for 79 yards.
--PASS DEFENSE: C -- After a punt late in the second quarter, safety Keanu Neal had a potential interception clank off his knee. Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith caught the deflection and ran 20 yards to the 50. A 15-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery got the Eagles in position for a last-second 53-yard field goal from Jake Elliott. The Falcons had the Eagles backed up at their 7-yard line in the third quarter. Foles completed five consecutive passes, three to Jeffery to move the Eagles into field-goal range to retake the lead 12-10 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. QB Nick Foles completed 23-of-30 passes for 246 yards.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Eagles fooled the Falcons early with an inside hand-off to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Eagles ran LeGarrette Blount outside. Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was working his way over to the play, but Eagles tight end Trey Burton leveled him with a block. The Eagles stayed with the run and started to grind out some yardage late against the Falcons.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Falcons' punt coverage team, for the second game in a row, came up big. One of Matt Bosher's punts hit Eagles defensive end Bryan Braman. Reynolds recovered the loose ball. The Falcons converted the turnover into a touchdown.
--COACHING: F -- The Falcons wasted two timeouts in the first half to get the defense organized. When the offense was driving right before the half and needed a timeout after a sack, it didn't have one. The Falcons ended up punting back to the Eagles, who drove for a field goal. The Falcons were horrendous on third downs and in the red zone. A more powerful team could have pounded out those final two yards. The short-yardage package failed them again. This should have been fixed after the failed third-and-1 in the Super Bowl last season.