Atlanta Falcons: 3 UFA starters that will not be back in 2021
There are big changes in store for the Atlanta Falcons in 2021.
The Atlanta Falcons currently have 17 unrestricted free agents and are currently $23 million over the cap. That means there are going to be some tough decisions that have to be made and a few that they would like to bring back but more than likely will not be able to.
The team will make several cuts over the coming months in order to free up needed cap space, which is always the rock and a hard place for NFL teams. They end up cutting players that they would like to keep and sometimes they bring them back at a more affordable option than before – though that is another article for another day.
Back to the 17 unrestricted free agents. At some point in 2020, 13 of the 17 unrestricted free agents started at least one game for the Atlanta Falcons. However, there are several that were full-time starters from the 2020 season that will not be back in 2021.
There are three that will be tough to replace but the Atlanta Falcons will attempt to do just that.
Center Alex Mack may be the best free-agent signing by former general manager Alex Mack.
For almost a decade, Mack was one of the best centers in the NFL. Over the last two seasons, his play has declined to a point that he will not be brought back by the current coaching staff in 2021. At 35, his best days are behind him and while he still brings a lot as a seasoned veteran but that isn’t enough to bring him back under a new deal.
There has been some talk that Mack is giving serious thought to heading out west to San Francisco and playing for Kyle Shanahan again. Regardless of the reason, he will not be back in Atlanta for 2021.
That means that second-year offensive lineman Matt Hennessy will be the next man up and will get a chance to show what he can do and why the Atlanta Falcons drafted him a year ago.
As we wrote last week, Keanu Neal will not be back and there are a lot of fans that will be most upset with this.
When he was healthy, Neal was one of the best safeties in the NFL and reminded a lot of people of Cam Chancellor. Neal gave no regard to his own health and threw himself at any and every offensive player that crossed his path.
He was on a pathway to a level of NFL success that most NFL players can only dream of but his hard-hitting style has left him as one that suffers from too many injuries and when coaches and front office personnel have to wonder how long a player can stay healthy, they simply move on and find the next player to replace them with.
Neal went from a player that was booed and question to a fan favorite. He will be missed in Atlanta but we have seen him in an Atlanta Falcons uniform for the last time.
This should be the least shocking and as we said last week, Todd Gurley just needs to retire. His arthritic knee is at a point of no return and as much as he wants to keep playing, he is a shell of what he was just three seasons ago.
The 2020 Atlanta Falcons offseason was filled with disappointing signing after disappointing signing – Todd Gurley, Charles Harris, Dante Fowler Jr, LaRoy Reynolds, and Darqueze Dennard.
Todd Gurley has said he wants to come back to Atlanta in 2021 and play for new head coach Arthur Smith, however, even the veteran minimum at this point is too much for a player that has had just one 100 yard rushing game and six games where he carried the ball at least 20 times since the start of the 2019 NFL season.
It is easy to argue he is a future College Football Hall of Famer but his NFL career is over.