For the past five seasons, Michael Turner has been an integral part of the Atlanta Falcons high-powered offense. Turner has rushed for 6,161 yards and 60 touchdowns with Atlanta, which makes it easy to see why he’s made the Pro Bowl twice during this stretch. However, Turner will be packing his bags and heading for another team along with fellow veterans John Abraham and Dunta Robinson.
These moves are part of what appears to be a big youth movement on the part of the Falcons. Furthermore, Atlanta will free up $16 million in cap space by getting rid of three of their most recognized players.
Turner (31 years old) was set to earn $6.4 million next season, Abraham (34) was due $5.75 million, and Robinson (30) was going to earn $3.75 million. Previously one of the league’s oldest and over-extended teams, the Falcons now have a chance to become a younger club with much more cap space.
General Manager Thomas Dimtroff recently discussed the high-profile, yet not totally unexpected, releases with the media. He stated:
These are never easy decisions to make. They were business decisions. They were decisions made for us to continue to look at the direction of this football team. We have a number of positions that we need to hone in on, whether if it’s in the draft or potentially acquiring (players) in free agency. That’s all that I can really say at this point, because there are a lot of moving parts.
As Dimtroff mentioned, these weren’t easy decisions – especially considering that three key players are being cut from a club that made it to the NFC Championship game. Turner had the least productive season of his Falcons career, but still led the team with 800 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Abraham has consistently been a great pass rusher for Atlanta with 68.5 sacks in seven seasons with them. He had 10 sacks last year, but didn’t play as much as usual in order to avoid injuries. Robinson has contributed four interceptions and 158 tackles in three seasons with the Falcons. But like Abraham, he took some snaps off to avoid injury.
Now that three three veteran starters are gone, Atlanta has some work to do in regard to replacing them. There are already various rumors floating about what the Falcons might do to fill these key positions.
As for running back, they have Jacquizz Rodgers, who contributed 362 rushing yards, 402 receiving yards on 52 catches, and two touchdowns. However, Rodgers’ relatively slight 5’6″, 196-pound stature makes it hard to give him a full workload. So there’s been talk of adding veteran Stephen Jackson (1,042 rushing yards, 10 TD’s) to compliment Rodgers.
Following his release by the Indianapolis Colts, Dwight Freeney is a definite possibility to take over for Abraham at defensive end. Freeney missed two games and only tallied 5 sacks last year, but could bounce back with a new team.
After letting Robinson go, the Falcons will probably rotate Asante Samuel, Robert McClain and Brent Grimes (if re-signed) in at the two cornerback spots.