Paul Soliai was the team's big cut in multiple senses of the word, considering his size, the size of his contract, and the impact his release has on the team. Without Soliai, the Falcons don't have a true run-stopping nose tackle, though Joey Mbu and Tyson Jackson come closest. Wit the team axing Roddy White, as well, the Falcons stand to save quite a bit of money the next couple of seasons.
That doesn't mean they're quite done, though, and two candidates stand out as potential cuts. One is Jackson, a man whose contract and production has been maligned almost since the moment he arrived in Atlanta. The other is Devin Hester, a living legend who may not be here because of lack of usage in Kyle Shanahan's offense and the fact that he's coming off an injury that limited him to just a couple of games in 2015.
2016: $6.35 million cap hit, $4.8 million dead money
2017: $5.85 million cap hit, $3.2 million dead money
2018: $5.85 million cap hit, $1.6 million dead money
By designating the cut as post-June 2, the Falcons could realize more relief, but I've suspected for a while now that T-Jax will make the roster unless the Falcons prioritize a defensive tackle in the draft. He's a more versatile player than Paul Soliai, the staff seems to at least value him as a rotational player inside, and cutting him outright saves them very little cap space this year. With Soliai gone and an aging Jonathan Babineaux and young players like Grady Jarrett, Ra'Shede Hageman and Joey Mbu forming the rest of the team's depth chart at defensive tackle, and Jackson's ability (on paper, at least) to play the traditional nose tackle role, it wouldn't be surprising to see him return.
If the Falcons do decide to use their other post-June 1 designation on Jackson, however, they'll save $4.75 million this year, and $4.25 million the next two years against $1.6 million annually in dead money, which may be tempting if there are free agents that shake loose later that the team covets.
2016: $3.83 million cap hit, $833,000 dead money
This one's pretty straightforward: The Falcons can either keep Hester for the last year of his contract and let him return kicks and punts for one more year, or they can cut him and save about $3 million. It's a simple situation on its face, but everything is complicated by the fact that Hester is not yet fully healthy.
I suspect the Falcons will elect to cut Hester when he is healthy, and apply that $3 million toward one more free agent signing or their draft class. They can get by with Eric Weems returning, and Hester was such a small part of the offense when he did return to the Falcons that it hardly makes sense to keep him around as a receiver.
What do you think?