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Panthers cut DT Paul Soliai; could Falcons be interested?

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The Panthers have moved on from ex-Falcon Paul Soliai after only one season. Could Atlanta be interested in bringing back the run-stuffing nose tackle?

NFL: Preseason-Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

As teams begin to trim their rosters before the onset of free agency, a player of interest to the Falcons occasionally shakes loose. Today, that player is ex-Falcon DT Paul Soliai, who was just cut by the Carolina Panthers:

Soliai played only limited snaps for the Panthers after being signed to a 2-year, $7 million contract. With the Panthers’ depth at DT and a need for cap space, they’ve decided to cut ties with the run-stuffing nose tackle after just one season. But now to the question that concerns us: might the Falcons be interested in bringing back Soliai?

Soliai, as you’ll recall, played extensively for the Falcons in 2015. He actually looked quite good during that season, displaying impressive run-stopping ability and even a little pass rush contribution here and there. In fact, the belief was that Soliai would be retained during the 2016 offseason due to his strong presence in the middle of the defensive line.

Instead, the Falcons asked Soliai to take a pay cut—which he refused—and then he was subsequently cut. Atlanta decided to keep fan punching bag Tyson Jackson, who was also incredibly overpaid, but showed none of the exciting traits Soliai had displayed during the 2015 season.

After Soliai’s departure, the Falcons lacked a true space-eater at nose tackle, and their base defense suffered throughout a good portion of the 2016 season. While the position is not hugely valuable in Quinn’s defense—a player like Soliai would likely only play in base packages and short-yardage situations—it’s still a position that the Falcons lacked in 2016.

With Soliai’s proven ability against the run, his familiarity with the scheme, and the fact that he’s not likely to carry a huge price tag, he could be a solid signing for the Falcons as a rotational player along the defensive line. With limited draft capital and cap space this offseason, Atlanta would be smart to find affordable free agents to plug into depth and rotational roles wherever possible.

What would you think of the Falcons bringing back Paul Soliai? Do you think he could still contribute on base packages? Will you ever forgive him for playing for the enemy (at least it wasn’t the Saints, I’m looking at you Nate Stupar)?