The Atlanta Falcons made two transactions on Wednesday, cutting veterans Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas in moves that freed up a total of $7.5 million in cash and $6.5 million in cap space.
Samuel was seen as a steal by fans and columnists back two years ago when the Falcons acquired the four-time Pro Bowler from the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth round pick, but his fairly successful 2012 season (5 INTs with 1 touchdown along with 34 tackles) was followed up by a dud in 2013.
Hampered by injuries that sidelined him for five games, a considerable amount of Samuel’s numbers either tied or set new career-lows, including games played (11), interceptions (1), interception return yards (1), and assisted tackles (1). Considering his struggles along with the emergence of rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, it was not much of a surprise to see the Falcons part ways with the thirty-three year old.
Nicholas, who was a fourth round pick by the team back in 2007, was a backup for the better part of his seven seasons, apart from the 2012 campaign when he started 15 games and recorded 71 tackles with 2 sacks. Nicholas became expendable thanks to the great play of rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, who quickly proved that their potential and lower salaries were more suitable for the Falcons.
With more money now freed up (Atlanta has a projected $21.2 million in cap space), who will the Atlanta Falcons target in free agency? General manager Thomas Dimitroff typically likes to solve the majority of the team’s issues through the draft, which should bring in one of the best offensive tackles or defensive ends available to the team.
Meanwhile, we could see the Falcons try to sign a veteran offensive guard or another tackle to try to give the a new identity to the 2014 O-Line, which could see a player like Kansas City’s Branden Albert or St. Louis’ Harvey Dahl, the former Falcon who some believe could be a cap casualty with the Rams. Atlanta may go the route they pursued last year and try to hit a home run in free agency at a position like tight end (although I doubt Jimmy Graham leaves NOLA) or defensive end (Bengals and former Georgia Tech end Michael Johnson would be a name to watch), but the vibe that is surrounding the team right now makes it look as if they are in conservative mode leading up to May’s draft.