Desmond Trufant has been a lightning rod for criticism in some quarters of the fanbase ever since he was drafted, but despite the mixed perceptions of his play, he’s been the team’s best cornerback nearly every year since 2013, with a couple of killer seasons by Robert Alford mixed in. With this football team heading for a make-or-break season, supposedly, Trufant seems like the kind of player you’d want to keep.
Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, though, Trufant is going to be a cap casualty this week. That speaks volumes about the team’s need for cap space, their faith in Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver, and the likelihood that they’ll draft another cornerback in 2020.
The #Falcons plan to release star CB Desmond Trufant this week, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 16, 2020
I’m bummed this is happening. Trufant only played in 9 games in 2020, but reeled in a career high number of interceptions with 4, deflected 7 passes, and generally played pretty well despite the state of the larger defense, which is an indication that he can still play and play at a high level. If the team does move on, he’ll finish 16th in team history for interceptions, 2nd for pass deflections, and 62nd in games played for the franchise.
There are three reasons this is happening, as I see it.
Tru’s cap hit in 2020 is set to be $15.15 million, and the Falcons can save close to $5 million by cutting him. They’ll be carrying $5.8 million in 2021 and and $1.4 million in dead money, which is why I’m not on board with cutting a guy who can still be a high level contributor. That $5 million will likely go to the defensive front seven, however, and there simply aren’t that many logical cuts this year outside of Allen Bailey, Devonta Freeman, and Ty Sambrailo.
It’s also quite possible that with the new CBA in place, the Falcons will seek to make Trufant a post-June 1 cut, freeing up more cash this year.
Atlanta feels they need that money, full stop, and they feel they can move on because...
Young Blanket and Kendall Sheffield are here
Isaiah Oliver did not have a great 2019 season, but Raheem Morris recently praised his development through the year. Kendall Sheffield, meanwhile, showed out far better than I would have expected for a fourth round rookie many said was relatively raw coming out of college.
With Morris in charge, Joe Witt Jr. on board as a new voice on the coaching staff, and those players available (plus Jordan Miller, post-suspension), the Falcons clearly feel they have the makings of a solid group of cornerbacks without Trufant. Anyone who watched this secondary bumble around for the first half of 2019 is probably going to have mixed feelings about that, but Morris coaxed at least some modest improvement out of them and will be running the show this coming season, which is at least a reason for some small optimism.
The Falcons are going to draft a cornerback
I think you can more or less set this one in stone. Ideally, the Falcons would use the first or second round to grab a potentially elite young player, allowing them to roll out Oliver and Sheffield as their 2nd and 3rd options, with Miller and perhaps Blidi Wreh-Wilson filling out the depth chart. Nailing a selection at the position would leave the Falcons in pretty great shape, though that’s far from a guarantee.
I don’t think Atlanta’s going to be content to leave this for late second day or even third day, because while I think they like Oliver and Sheffield a great deal, neither one figures to be the kind of elite player in the short term that the Falcons need.
In the end, I don’t expect Trufant to lack for suitors so long as he’s healthy, because he’s still a good cornerback and teams won’t have to deal with more onerous bits of his current contract. It stinks that his career will end in such an unceremonious way after all the good he’s done for the franchise, but Atlanta’s many issues figure to doom more than one useful player with a big contract this coming week.
We wish him well wherever he goes.