Which Atlanta Falcons veterans should be worried about their jobs?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fact: Jake Matthews face measures exactly 5 inches by 5 inches (25 square inches).

The NFL isn't a league where you can sit back, relax, and sip Smirnoff Ice. Veterans must have their heads on a swivel, because whether they realize it or not, a fresh crop of capable rookies is always right on their heels. Absent talking lions and a sorcerer monkey, it's like the "Circle of Life" in a way.

Jacquizz Rodgers

Just a few weeks back, I floated the possibility he'd make the Pro Bowl. While I stand by my argument, Rodgers has to wonder whether Devonta Freeman will get his reps. Freeman is a talented back and so is Rodgers, which in my mind equates to competition. Competition makes football players better. It's a can't lose situation, right? Well, it depends.

Rodgers is entering what is essentially a contract year, the last in his rookie contract. His cap number more than doubles this year, jumping dramatically from $602,750 to $1,478,750. Also, the dead money he'd represent if cut is scary cheap, only $47,750. If the Falcons like what they see from Freeman in the pre-season, and if Mike Smith gets serious about stepping up Antone Smith's role, the Falcons could save themselves almost a million dollars by cutting Rodgers.

Rodgers, to be sure, is a popular player. It'd be sad to see him go, especially given his dual threat status. But there's no doubt he's got a camp battle ahead of him.

Peria Jerry

Jerry might be the least popular Falcon since ... ever. But the Falcons brought him back with a pay cut on a 1 year deal. His deal contains no prorated bonus, only a roster bonus. I can't find the trigger date for the roster bonus, but you can safely assume it's June 1st. Odds are the Falcons wouldn't cut him this month. So [insert complex calculations on a really fancy Texas Instruments calendar] if the Falcons part ways with him during camp/the pre-season, they'd be on the hook for $160,000.

Jerry's concern is of course the Falcons' second round draft pick, Ra'Shede Hageman. As Dave noted in his initial analysis, Hageman profiles as a dynamic interior pass rusher, a role Jerry has largely failed to adequately fill. He's also got to be concerned about Corey Peters' recovery. Peters is said to be on progress in his recovery from an achilles injury that ruined in his 2013 campaign; however, if he has any set backs, that certainly gives Jerry some job security.

Akeem Dent

I won't lie, if I were Akeem Dent, I'd be stealing as much free Falcons gear as possible. Why? Because there's a good chance I'm unemployed in the very near future. Dent had to have gulped hard when the Falcons drafted 4 linebackers. Like Rodgers, he's entering the last year of his rookie contract. Unlike Rodgers, Dent represents $135,725 in potential dead money. He's got a prorated bonus, so even if the Falcons cut him now, they're still on the hook for that amount.

There are other veterans who might want to watch their backs, including Mike Johnson, Stansley Maponga, and Antone Smith. So what say you? Who's safe? And which veterans should be worried? Discuss!

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