Earlier today, the Atlanta Falcons have released cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas. These moves are not likely to be the only cuts made this offseason, but these were probably the most obvious.
Asante Samuel was a leader in 2012 with an incredible attitude that set the tone for the defense. In 2013, his age caught up with him. He was injured for a lot of the season and when he was playing, he gave up too many big plays and didn’t show enough production to justify his contract. With only one interception and only having played in a total of 11 games, he was not due for the $4 million he would have had in 2014.
This move also makes sense with the surprising performance that Robert Alford has displayed. With Desmond Trufant one of the leading cornerbacks in the NFL, Robert Alford was never more than a few steps behind him. Having these skilled, young corners ready to step in and good enough to start, Asante was as good as gone.
Stephen Nicholas was also prime for the chopping block. He’s served Atlanta well in the seven years he’s been here, but his age was also catching up to him. He carried about a $3 million cap hit, but couldn’t amass to more than a decent back-up. With the emergence of Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow, the Atlanta Falcons have a good linebacking corps. With all the problems on the lines, Atlanta needs every penny they can get.
There are a few players on the bubble that may or may not get cut to save even more money. The more money Atlanta has, the better shot they have at signing big name agents that could vastly improve the line of scrimmage, tight end, or safety.
Thomas Decoud was dreadful in coverage this past season as well as terrible at taking the right angles and missing tackles. He carries a 3$ cap hit and could easily be a casualty if Atlanta doesn’t believe he has what it takes to rebound next season.
Osi Umenyiora carries a $4.75 million cap hit in 2014 and could be cut. He was the leader in sacks and is a good 4-3 defensive end, but Atlanta is looking for a youth movement as well as players who can be versatile on defense. Osi is neither of these and if Atlanta would like to save some cash, they could let him go and easily replace his production with an early draft pick or a free agency move.
Kroy Biermann will be pocketing $2.55 million next year as well. His skill is much more useful, however. Atlanta uses him all over the defense. He could be an outside linebacker and a defensive end. He drops into coverage well and can put pressure on the quarterback. He’s not a shiny 12-sack guy, but he has something the team likes to use and I doubt he will be going anywhere, but there’s a possibility Atlanta would prefer a similar player in the draft.
Where would you make cuts?