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Falcons cut S Ricardo Allen, DE Allen Bailey

Adam Schefter reports that both veteran defenders are gone as the team tries to free up money.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons have made the first major personnel moves of the Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith era, as Adam Schefter at ESPN reports that they’ve cut Ricardo Allen and Allen Bailey.

Both moves are part of a larger cost-cutting that Atlanta must do to get under the 2021 cap and start retooling the roster, but it’s a little surprising to see Allen as one of the first players out the door. The team will save close to $11 million with the moves, but will have to pick up a new starting safety and add to an already depleted defensive end group with these cuts.

Allen was originally selected as a cornerback out of Purdue back in 2014, the final year of the Mike Smith era, and was somewhat mysteriously waived and put on the practice squad in his rookie season. With the arrival of Dan Quinn, Allen was shifted to safety and became a full-time starter there, keeping that job despite changing personnel and injuries through the 2020 season. As the team’s safety net in the secondary, he built a reputation as a smart player who made critical plays when he needed to, especially during the 2016 and 2017 when he was such a critical piece of a pair of solid defenses.

One of the most respected men in the Falcons organization and a player who has made it clear he’ll go into coaching one day, Allen is a player that’ll be a tough to lose for the locker room. The move also makes it clear that the Falcons will be rebuilding the safety position this offseason, as Allen was one of just two players (Jaylinn Hawkins is the other) under contract there.

This is not a surprising cut, per se, because cutting Allen saves the Falcons over $6 million and an entirely new defensive staff is going to have different priorities at safety. I’m bummed to see him go after he put together a nice career for Atlanta, but he shouldn’t struggle to get work elsewhere.

Bailey joined the Falcons as a free agent in 2019 to help out a typically shaky defensive line, but despite some fine stretches did not end up playing a major role for the team all that often as players like Steven Means and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner cut into his playing time. Over the past two seasons, Bailey managed 2.5 sacks, 11 pressures and 6 tackles for loss on about 45% of the defensive snaps. A team looking for a steady run defender will scoop him up this spring.

We still don’t know exactly the what the cap is going to look like in 2021, but it could be as low as $180 million. The Falcons will make additional cuts and restructure deals in the very near future to get in line with that final number, but they’ll likely go much further than that given Terry Fontenot’s pro personnel background and this team’s stated desire to tackle needs through free agency rather than the draft. Buckle up for a lot more news in this vein, in other words.

We wish both men well, and I sincerely hope that we see Allen back coaching with this Falcons team down the line.