We all knew that some big news was going to come out of Flowery Branch at some point. The Falcons had significant needs to address, and very little cap space with which to address it. The Falcons announced today that they have cut Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham. All three of these names have been tossed around as possibilities, but the fact that it isn't really a surprise and the understanding that it's a business doesn't make it fun.
Michael Turner was an impact player for the Falcons basically from the moment he arrived in Atlanta. In 2008, his first season with the Falcons, his 1,699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns were integral to helping the Falcons get the bad taste of 2007 out of their mouths. Turner holds a number of Falcons franchise records, including most rushing yards in a game, most career rushing touchdowns, most career 100 yard games, most points scored in a game, most touchdowns in a season, most rushing touchdowns in a game/most touchdowns in a game, and most consecutive games with a touchdown. Turner is also responsible for possibly the greatest Falcons gif of all time, when he picked up Eric Weems and threw him at a defender.
In five years with the Falcons, Turner amassed 6,081 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns. Turner had undoubtedly declined this season, with just 800 rushing yards, and this move does not come as a surprise, but we'll miss seeing #33 on the field in red and black.
It was huge news when the Falcons acquired Dunta Robinson on a six year/$57,000,000 contract as a free agent from the Houston Texans prior to the 2010 season. Robinson has not turned out to be the ballhawk fans, and presumably the front office, expected, but he hits like a truck, and was actually one of the better run defenders for the Falcons last season, which tells you all you need to know about what needs to improve from the front seven.
While Robinson was graded by Pro Football Focus as the second-most effective (behind Kroy Biermann) defender against the run last season, that's not really what teams look for in a cornerback. Cutting Robinson leaves the Falcons with $3 million in dead money, according to Spotrac, but this move still makes sense from a salary cap perspective. It will be interesting to see if the Falcons decide to make a play for Brent Grimes, or address this roster vacancy in another way.
The most surprising move made by the Falcons today, at least to me, was releasing John Abraham. Abraham has been one of the best pass rushers in Falcons history. Abe came to Atlanta in 2006, and since that time has had 68.5 sacks. Abe was graded by Pro Football Focus as not only the most effective pass rusher for the Falcons in 2012, with 10.5 sacks, 8 hits and 38 hurries, but they also graded him as the most effective defensive player in 2012 overall. In addition, Abe is second on the Falcons all-time sacks list, and currently leads the league in sack totals.
It's hard to see a guy like Abe walk out the door, especially knowing that he was basically the only effective pass rusher the Falcons had last season and how important it is for the Falcons to improve in that area.
I certainly understand the business side of the NFL. I'm willing to accept that, when you finish the season just a few yards from playing in the Super Bowl, you have to be willing to accept some difficult decisions to take the team to the next level. But, it's still hard to see veteran players released, knowing how significantly they have contributed to the success of this team in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era.
Arthur Blank told us last season after the embarrassing loss to the Giants in the postseason that there were "no sacred cows." Today's cuts emphasize that. But, I trust Thomas Dimitroff et al to make the right moves to put this team in a position to win.
How are you feeling about today's cuts? What moves do you expect the Falcons to make with the cap space they've created?