In news that I was not at all emotionally prepared for, Matt Bryant shared on Twitter that the Falcons have cut him, bringing a legendary career in Atlanta to a close.
Bryant, who will turn 44 in May, has been the team’s kicker since taking over for Jason Elam back in 2009. He leaves Atlanta holding every significant franchise kicking record, having made huge kicks throughout the regular season and in the post-season, and doing it all at an exceptionally high level at all times despite his age. It was a remarkable career and Bryant will deserve every bit of praise and mythologizing coming his way in the days, months, and years ahead.
This move hurts, especially coming on the heels of the release of Robert Alford, another longtime quality Falcon. But it hurts especially because Bryant was so good and so beloved in Atlanta, where he made 88.7% of his kicks, nailed 250 field goals, converted 372 of 375 extra points, and was a comfort to nervous Falcons fans nearly every time he trotted out to try the kick. We’re going to miss him, full stop.
The release will save the Falcons close to $3 million this year and close to $4 million in 2020, and they’ll turn the reins over to Giorgio Tavecchio. Italian Ice, as he’s known, was excellent in limited action in 2018, and the Falcons clearly saw their future kicker in Tavecchio, who is much younger than Bryant. He’s under contract at a very affordable salary for 2019 and will be a restricted free agent in 2020, giving the Falcons two years of cost-controlled kicking. The question is obviously whether he’ll be 90% (or jeez, even 75%) of the kicker Bryant was all of these years, because if he’s not the Falcons are going to get dragged hard by this fanbase for the foreseeable future.
The Falcons moving on from Matt Bryant has 2019 NFL Draft implications, as well. As ESPN’s Vaughn McClure notes, the Falcons elected not to exercise Bryant’s 2019 team option, rendering his release a case of an expiring contract. Should he sign elsewhere, the Falcons are in line to potentially receive a late-round compensatory pick.
Matt Bryant will factor into the compensatory-pick equation since the Falcons didn't exercise the option. It's considered an expiring contract.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) February 6, 2019
We’ll have more thoughts and memories about Bryant’s stellar Falcons career soon, as well as a breakdown of what’s ahead for Tavecchio, but suffice to say this is sad news and we wish Money Matt well wherever he lands next.