Atlanta Falcons: Ranking the five biggest personnel losses in 2021

Dec 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack (51) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) watch the coin toss before a NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack (51) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) watch the coin toss before a NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

As Atlanta Falcons’ general manager Terry Fontenot forewarned, there would be difficult decisions made on the future of several well-liked players and those decisions will be felt in a major way during the 2021 season.

Change and injuries are the only two constants among NFL rosters and the Atlanta Falcons are no exception. This franchised has suffered from the injuries aspect more than most teams over the last three seasons. With a new front office and coaching staff, the 2021 off-season has been one of major change as well.

We all knew heading into the offseason that Thomas Dimitroff put this team in a really bad position from a cap space perspective and given the lack of attendance and TV ratings in 2020, the salary cap was not going to be a major problem.

The 2021 salary cap is just over $182 million, which is $17 million less than 2020 and $6 million less than 2019.

That said, there were five Atlanta Falcons that are not returning for the 2021 season either because the team could not re-sign them or due to retirement. Here is how we would rank their losses in terms of importance to the franchise.

Five biggest personnel losses for the Atlanta Falcons in 2021.

5. Matt Schaub

The former third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2004 draft had a great 17 year run in the NFL – not many players get to play the game that they love for that long.

While breaking into the NFL with the Falcons, it wasn’t until he was traded to the Houston Texans in 2007 that he found his own way and success. During his seven-year run in Houston, he threw for more than 23 thousand yards and was selected to two Pro Bowls (2009 & 2012)

While he was of great service to Matt Ryan, he was simply a cheap option as a backup quarterback and allowed Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn to not draft and develop a backup quarterback. His loss will not be one that has a major impact, if at all.

4. Ricardo Allen

Ricardo Allen was one of many late-round diamonds that Thomas Dimitroff was able to find – had TD been that good at finding talent in the front end of the draft, the Atlanta Falcons would have been ridiculous in the field.

Allen was an undersized safety who opposing offenses didn’t fear and he was far from a ball hawk safety – his career-high in interceptions was three. What he lacked in instinct, he didn’t really make up for in size and speed, which, for safeties in the NFL was a problem.

However, he was a great locker room guy, was loved by his teammates and fans loved having a hard-working player that gave his all every Sunday and never complained about money, the city, or the franchise.

His abilities on the field won’t be missed but his leadership will be hard to replace.

3. Damontae Kazee

There is no sugar coating it – Damontae Kazee will be missed and the fact that the Atlanta Falcons let him walk for $1.2 million is garbage.

Given the lack of talent in the Falcons secondary seeing Kazee sign with the Cowboys for a little more than the veteran minimum is hard to swallow. While there were definitely tough decisions to make, his versatility as a corner and safety should have made him ideal for Dean Pees’ defense.

Instead, he has reunited with Dan Quinn and Keanu Neal in Dallas and will probably go on to be a Pro Bowl safety because nothing would be Falcons-Esque than losing a player to see him blow up for another franchise.

Losing Kazee was a huge blow to both the roster and the fan base.

2. Keanu Neal

A year ago, we looked at the 2021 free agents and talked about Keanu Neal being the most important piece that had to be brought back. After missing 29 games over the last three seasons, it is easy to see why Terry Fontenot didn’t think it was important to bring him back.

There isn’t a harder hitter in the NFL, for five years we saw Neal throw his body around with little regard for his own health and that eventually took its toll on him and the Falcons.

Keanu went from being a guy that Atlanta Falcons fans booed and didn’t want to a fan favorite because of how he played every single week. If there was a big play to be made, he made them and he was a big reason why the Falcons defense was able to turn their season around and get to the Super Bowl his rookie year.

1. Alex Mack

There hasn’t been a player more important to Matt Ryan than Alex Mack – not Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Julio Jones, or Calvin Ridley.

When Alex Mack chose the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, it felt like the franchise was turning things around. For years, Matt Ryan had to deal with pressure in his face from the A-gaps and Mack took care of that problem. It was no coincidence that Matt was the league MVP his first season in Atlanta.

He was the quarterback of the offensive line. He made the blocking calls and allowed Matt to be responsible for other things – he was truly a quarterback’s best friend.

The first four years in Atlanta, Mack was among the two best centers in football and he wasn’t far off from being the best. At 35, his 12th season was a rough one in the NFL and Matt Ryan paid the price for it.

Replacing him with Matt Hennessy will not be easy but the good news is that Hennessy got to spend a year around Mack learning the nuances of the position and hopefully he can take those lessons and become of the league’s best himself.

We were all hoping he would retire but instead he has decided to play for Kyle Shanahan in an attempt to win a title before retiring.

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