With just four games to go, there will be players literally playing for their jobs next year. That includes free agent pickups who are one year deals, but it also includes sturdy veterans who have been here a long time. When your season hits the skids, there are bound to be heads rolling out of Flowery Branch.
We're not going to be looking at potential free agent targets and draft picks in this article, though we will be soon enough. Instead, this will serve as a jumping off point to your larger discussion about who should stay and who should go in the year ahead.
He hasn't been a hugely productive player, but he's a player Dan Quinn is comfortable with, he appears to have worked his way into a leadership role with this team, and he's a decent complementary pass rusher for a team with an actual pass rush, a category the Falcons will hopefully fit in 2016.
This is dependent on Kyle Shanahan returning, but if he does, I could see Hank Time coming back on another relatively cheap one year pact, serving as the third or fourth option for Atlanta.
I think his days as a full-time starter are clearly numbered, but the team values his leadership and he'll be back as a reserve and special teamer, where I think he'll go from frequent scapegoat for the defense to valued contributor.
Like Hankerson, Chester's status likely hinges on whether Kyle Shanahan is the coordinator in 2016 or not. Chester's a capable run blocker and knows the scheme well, and could serve as a stopgap option for another year with Andy Levitre and Mike Person no locks to return.
I'm iffy on this, but if the Falcons think Person has made real progress given that he was never a center in the NFL before this year, they might be willing to bring him back and see how much he improves. It's likely to be another short-term deal, however.
You'll save close to $5 million by cutting him in 2017, but in 2016 it's not nearly that much, and Roddy remains a franchise icon. He'll likely be eased into a smaller role if he sticks around, but I think he's got one more year with Atlanta.
Yes, again. He's a core special teamer and a perfectly fine rotational player who isn't as hated now that his snaps have been dialed back, and he's definitely a useful piece for the Falcons' very good run defense. Expect another cheap, 1-2 year deal, assuming Biermann doesn't get a more compelling offer elsewhere.
He showed well in limited snaps and remains a critical piece of the special teams puzzle, so Stupar's an obvious candidate to return.
He's a restricted free agent and he's played very well at right tackle most of the year, albeit with the occasional hiccup in pass protection.
I hate to type this, but increasingly my hunch is that the former second rounder will be on his way out. The Falcons will save about $3.3 million (and have about $3.3 million in dead money) if they cut ties with Moore heading into next year. I'm sure Quinn and company would like to add a young, impact safety, and they appear to have two worthwhile reserves in Robenson Therezie and Kemal Ishmael, so Moore seems like the obvious man out.
He just spent most of the season on the shelf, the Falcons got perfectly decent returns out of Eric Weems once he got rolling, and the team can cut ties with him and save $3 million, with under $1 million in dead cap for 2017. It would take Hester getting rolling in the offense to save his roster spot, and I don't think that's going to happen this year.
It's possible he'll re-sign, sure, but I have to think Long is going to want a better crack at a starting job elsewhere. If the Falcons elected to let Schraeder part I'm sure they'd give Long a long (ha!) look, but I don't see that happening.
No-brainer. Adams went from full-time starter in nickel sets to gameday inactive, so he's as good as gone.
The Falcons badly need to get younger and more athletic at linebacker, and while Wheeler has done some good work in his limited run with the Falcons, they're likely returning Worrilow, they already have Brooks Reed and Justin Durant under contract, and Nate Stupar seems likely to come back as a reserve and special teamer. Wheeler's probably the odd man out.
It wasn't that long ago that I argued he should stay, but Clayborn's been quiet ever since, and the Falcons are likely to add multiple pieces along the defensive front as they try to get closer to Dan Quinn's ideal defense. It was a worthy gamble, but Clayborn has been a mixed bag.
He might be back, but I doubt he'll stick around. You know what I mean.