Dan Quinn is bringing with him new schemes, and the Atlanta Falcons have a few players leftover from the Smith regime who are very expensive, have been unable to stay healthy, and appear to have no starting spot.
And I am not just talking about Sam Baker.
Lets pit our offense against the defense. We will have these players do what they have not done well for the Falcons: battle against each other and see who you really want gone from this team.
The Offense Bracket
The perennial underachiever, Konz has appeared to be on the Sam Baker career track. Drafted too high, struggled to flash even average ability, and constantly injured. There is hope the new offensive blocking scheme will play better to his strengths, but he appears to be battling a number of players just for a roster spot.
According to the website Spotrac, Konz can be easily jettisoned and the Falcons can gain nearly $900,000 in cap space.
Toilolo has stayed pretty healthy, but that is where the positives end. He failed to do much after being handed the starting position last year, and the Falcons finally added two tight ends for competition. The new tight ends get constant praise from Dan Quinn, while Toilolo is typically an afterthought. He is, at the very least, on a reasonable rookie deal.
The Falcons could cut Toilolo and save a small amount of cap space after they refill his roster spot with someone earning the veteran minimum. He may be battling undrafted free agents for a spot.
Holmes continues to stick on the roster thanks to poor depth and unending injuries at tackle. He was believed to be a roster long-shot in 2014 before Sam Baker tore up his knee. He ended up playing but still does not look like a starter. There are reports that Holmes has slimmed down significantly, suggesting he may be dedicated and ready to show his stuff to the new coaching staff.
His base salary has nearly tripled (!) over last year, and the Falcons can save about $1.5 million in cap space by cutting the tackle.
Baker just got cut. He ruins everything.
With Baker gone, there are not a lot of offensive players left that make sense to get rid of. Hester's role gets a little fuzzy with the selection of Justin Hardy and signing of Leonard Hankerson. He may be pushed back to a pure special teamer, which makes him kind of expensive. If the Falcons are pushing heavier towards the run, Hester's usefulness looks limited.
The team could clear up about $2 million in cap space by cutting Hester, with only under $1 million dedicated to him next year.
The Defense Bracket
I will say that it is not Kroy's fault that he has been criminally misused the last few seasons. It is not his fault he played nearly 80% of Atlanta's defensive snaps, by far the leader of anyone on the defensive line, despite returning from an injury and his smaller frame. It is not his fault Mike Nolan assigned Kroy to cover Greg Jennings, despite the team also having multiple defensive backs on the roster who probably would have done a bit better. If used correctly, Kroy could have a nice impact in a limited role.
But since everyone dislikes Kroy, he makes the list! His one-year deal had only a $500,000 signing bonus. Assuming he does not get his roster bonus (likely by making the team), cutting Kroy can save the team about $1.4 million in 2015 cap space.
Jackson remains one of the crown jewels of a 2014 full of incompetence. Only one year into an unnecessary five year, $25 million deal, the invisible man has a $3.85 million cap hit, but would create $7.9 million in dead money if cut. Considering his small-ish base salary, it makes little sense to cut the man who struggles to stop the run and has zero ability to rush the passer.
By cutting him today, Jackson would actually save the team $2.25 million this year, but the Falcons would have to dedicate $4.8 million in cap space to Jackson 2016. The team may have to pick between Jackson and Baker, or else dedicate over $11 million in 2016's cap to these two players.
Moore has been a staple for the Falcons since early in his career, but has been dealing with injuries more often than not. He recently turned 30 and has the 5th biggest cap hit of the entire team. The big hitter has been making fewer big plays and spending more time on the sidelines.
Depending on when his roster bonus kicks in, the team can save $3.5 million in 2015 cap, but will be on the hook for about $3.4 million in dead money in 2016.
I wavered on this last pick. Atlanta only has a few defensive players with big contracts, and many of them were just signed this offseason. Quick, who is our highest paid defensive player? Based on the cap space, it is actually Moore. Soliai easily outperformed Tyson Jackson, and made up the middle line of the worst defense in the league. He could be better utilized, but certainly costs a lot of money to be a mediocre player on about half of the defensive
Soliai's contract gets prohibitive as early as next season, but the team could clear up an extra $3 million in cap space this year, pushing $4.2 million of dead money into next season by getting rid of Soliai.
Atlanta's Cap Space
Believe it or not, but the Falcons still have over $12.5 million in cap space, counting their top 51 players. You would like the team to enter the season with $3 or $4 million in case of injuries, and maybe a bit more in case a quality veteran is cut prior to the season that would fit a big need.
The team has a few choices with what they can do with the current cap space, such as getting the Julio Jones contract done early and pushing a big cap hit in 2015 to lessen his future space, restructure contracts for some additional space, cutting deadbeat players left and right, or a mixture of all of the above.
Do not forget about the poll! Those with the most votes will battle in our next round of the Cut Bracket Poll. If you want someone else gone, list them in the comments, along with what you would do with Atlanta's cap space.