The writing was on the wall for a while now, but I had held out hope that the Falcons would reach an accord with Robert Alford that changed the structure of his deal and kept him around. Instead, the team will release the 2013 second rounder, saving just shy of $8 million against the 2019 salary cap and enabling them to tackle other priorities.
The report comes via NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo, and does not indicate when Alford will be officially released. Vaughn McClure at ESPN indicates he’s already been informed of the decision.
The #Falcons are releasing CB Robert Alford, sources say. The 2013 second-round pick had 10 INTs in 88 games in his six years in Atlanta. Was due $8.5m this upcoming season. Figure he gets another gig before the start of free agency.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 5, 2019
League source confirms to me that Falcons CB Robert Alford has been informed of his release. Team said they wanted to go in a different direction. Alford had two years and $17 million left on his deal. Falcons now likely to turn to Isaiah Oliver for a... https://t.co/RDw5dbb3px— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) February 5, 2019
General manager Thomas Dimitroff had the following to say about the roster move:
“We thank Robert for all that he brought to the team during his six seasons in Atlanta. He was a significant contributor to our defense and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish Robert all the best going forward.”
Alford, 30, joined the Falcons in the same draft class as Desmond Trufant, with the team intending to solve their cornerback need for several seasons. While Alford’s career got off to a shaky start, he wound up being a quality contributor for several years, managing 10 interceptions (plus a huge pick six of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl), 85 pass deflections, and 303 tackles over the years. He was solid-to-good in 2015 and pretty terrific in 2016 and 2017 before the bottom dropped out in 2018, when Alford had arguably his worst season as a pro as the Falcons sagged to 7-9.
That season, plus Alford’s cap hit, were likely the deciding factors here. The Falcons drafted Isaiah Oliver in the second round in 2018 with an eye on making him a long-term starter and have talked openly about drafting another corner in this class, meaning there was little room for a player making $8.5 million at a position where Desmond Trufant is highly paid, Damontae Kazee may get a long look, and Brian Poole is still an extremely useful option in his own right. The Falcons will likely use their cap savings to shore up one or both of their lackluster lines, which the team identified as a problem coming into this offseason.
We know Alford will land on his feet, given his strong track record, and we wish him well wherever he lands. The Falcons went a long time without multiple quality starting cornerbacks, and Alford gave them a couple of great years and at least one phenomenal Super Bowl memory. Now we’ll see if Oliver is up to the task of replacing him as the Falcons look to bounce back in 2019.