The Atlanta Falcons stunned their fanbase last night, releasing Ray Edwards after just a year and a half. I don't think anyone expected the Falcons to do this before the end of the season.
As James noted last night, Edwards simply was not productive during his time in Atlanta. He had ceded most of his playing time to Kroy Biermann, who hasn't put up huge numbers but has offered value as a pass rusher and offers special teams value. The Edwards contract looked reasonable at the time it was inked, but he clearly hasn't lived up to the deal in the slightest.
I don't claim to know why Edwards bombed in Atlanta, though those details may come out over time It may have been his true talent level without the Williams Wall and Jared Allen, it may have been never recovering from his knee injury or a thousand other reasons. At the end of the day, he just wasn't playing well, and the Falcons are trying to win it all this year. Dead weight in not welcome.
As Jeff Schultz noted, it takes balls to admit you've made a mistake as an NFL general manager and head coach and move on to other options. That's exactly the signal Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are sending by cutting ties with Edwards, and it tells you that other unproductive veterans should probably be tiptoeing around the locker room. The Falcons' brass makes mistakes, sure, but I think they've earned enough trust to make a move like this.
I don't think this really hurts the team for 2012, except perhaps in terms of depth. If the Falcons can get one of Sidbury, Massaquoi and Matthews to play as well as Edwards or a little better—and I don't think that's ridiculous to expect—then they'll weather the change pretty well. They may even see an improvement to the pass rush in the very near future.
The question is who will take over for Edwards. I don't mean starter's snaps—Biermann has those—but the remaining 30-plus percent he was taking on. I think the likeliest candidate is Lawrence Sidbury. That prediction has come back to bite me before, but we know he can rush the passer, Cliff Matthews is more of a run-stopper and Jonathan Massaquoi has been constantly inactive, so El Sid's my guess. Share yours.
I may be rambling a bit, but ultimately I think there was no reason to wait on this move. The savings next year and the possible boost to the pass rush this year make it worth it to cut ties with Edwards.
Do you agree?