On Monday, we talked about the Falcons finally getting their young players going on both offense and defense. Of course, there's another side to that increased playing time, and that's a corresponding drop in snaps for veterans.
In some cases, that means a veteran is benched. Asante Samuel has been merely decent in 2013, but it's still a mild surprise to see him riding the pine in favor of Robert Alford. Samuel, you remember, was terrific a year ago after the Falcons plucked him from the Eagles for a seventh round pick. This year, things have gone awry, and with an eye toward the future and Samuel's $5+ million 2014 salary, big changes are afoot.
Asante Samuel on being benched. "It was tough. I'm a competitor."— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) December 11, 2013
This almost certainly has implications for 2014, though it remains to be seen what those will be. Let's read some tea leaves. It's going to be tough to justify outright benching Samuel for the last few games of the season if he's returning next season, but if he's moving on, you can point to the need to develop Alford for a starting role next year. It's clear that Alford is going to be a starter and Samuel is slowly, gradually declining. Unless he'll be satisfied with a nickel role, a move to safety or something along those lines, there's no reason to believe he'll return.
Samuel was pretty vague himself when he spoke to the media today.
So I have to believe there's going to be a few veterans heading out in 2014. The last one veered between fine (Tyson Clabo) to problematic (John Abraham), but there's no question that the Falcons are going to be parting ways with a few again. Samuel's the likeliest of all, and the Falcons are making that clear early.
The writing is on the wall here, is what I'm saying. No matter what, Samuel has done some terrific things in his short tenure in Atlanta, so I'll wish him well.
What do you think?