As we edge closer to the start of free agency, teams are going to start to make major cuts and re-sign their own guys. With a significantly reduced salary cap, those cuts are expected to be significant across the NFL.
That is deeply unfortunate for the players, who are going to be facing cuts when they might not have been in years past and facing a market that’s unlikely to be heavy on expensive, multi-year deals. The number of one year pacts this season as teams and players alike try to maintain some flexibility is going to be significant, and the Falcons will very much fit into that.
Just texted with an NFL head coach about the upcoming cuts and what he expects…— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 3, 2021
“It’s going to be a massacre next week all around the league”
With that in mind, let’s keep a running tracker going here of players who have been released that might be of interest to the Falcons. We’ll sort it in descending order from most recent to least recent, and try to focus on players who either have ties to the new coaching staff and front office, or are legitimately intriguing in their own right.
- Adoree Jackson and Dennis Kelly are done in Tennessee. The former is a former Titans first round pick who has the skills to be a useful starter in Atlanta, while the latter is a candidate for the swing tackle role if Matt Gono will be in the mix to start at guard. As always, the question is money.
- This is a big one: The Raiders cut ties with center Rodney Hudson, a player who would be a massive upgrade to the offensive line. it’s unlikely they’ll be able or willing to outbid teams with a lot of cash on hand, but this would prevent them from having to throw Matt Hennessy into the fire immediately.
The #Raiders are releasing Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, source said, a surprise in Las Vegas as their O-line receives a nearly complete facelift.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2021
- Janoris Jenkins is out in New Orleans, along with a raft of other players. He gets banged up pretty often and he’s coming off a solid but unspectacular year, but there’s no question he’s a starting-caliber cornerback and that he’d be a lift for the team’s current group. Given the flooded market, the team’s need, and the likely deflated 2021 salaries this cap is bringing, I’d count on them signing someone.
- Kenny Vaccaro is out in Tennessee. I’m sure you guys are sick of us drawing lines between Titans free agents and the Falcons, but remember, Vaccaro joined up in 2018 when Dean Pees landed in Tennessee and is a player he clearly likes having around. Coming off a so-so 13 game season in 2020 and entering his age 30 season, he may not be hyper expensive.
- Kevin Zeitler is an obvious candidate for the team’s left guard vacancy, assuming the money works. He’s a durable, consistent guard who has chiefly played on the right side in his career, and will be a cut below guys like Joe Thuney who are at the top of this class and will be more expensive.
- Malcolm Butler will almost certainly warrant consideration from Atlanta. This is a team that lacks veteran cornerback help, has his former defensive coordinator Dean Pees on staff, and would have to consider a chance to get a guy coming off a decent, healthy season a worthwhile addition in the short term. If he did sign, Butler would likely start opposite A.J. Terrell, with Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield duking it out for slot duties.
Source: The #Titans have informed starting CB Malcolm Butler that he’s been released.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2021
- Desmond Trufant has been released, and a reunion should at least be on the table. Tru was the team’s best cornerback from 2013-2019, but injuries and Matt Patricia’s defense destroyed his value these past two years, and he’ll head into the market looking for a prove-it deal.
Atlanta won’t necessarily give him that, but it’s worth considering. The Falcons have an unsettled cornerback group and Trufant is, when healthy and in a defense that favors his strengths, a starting-caliber corner. As a one-year signing to help Atlanta bridge the gap and to help Trufant rebuild his value heading into a year with what could be a dramatically increased cap.
- Gabe Jackson was released by the Raiders. He’s not coming off his best year, but Jackson is a terrific guard who has historically played extremely well at guard, especially right guard. That might make him an uneasy fit for this team with Chris Lindstrom at right guard, but Jackson at left guard would be an awfully compelling stopgap signing heading into his age 30 season.
- The Vikings cut longtime starting tight end Kyle Rudolph. He’s a sure-handed, reliable receiving target with a solid history of red zone production and remains a decent blocking tight end, meaning he’d have plenty of utility in Arthur Smith’s tight end-friendly offense. There may be other players the Falcons have their eyes on at the position, but Rudolph’s worth a look.
- Henry Anderson is looking for work. The Atlanta native and longtime Jet and Colt has exactly one impressive season as a pass rusher under his belt—he had 7 sacks back in 2018—but offers rock solid run defense and has played both defensive tackle and defensive end in the past. Atlanta needs so much help on the defensive line he’ll be worth a quick call.
- The Texans cut center Nick Martin and running back Duke Johnson. The latter is a frequently hyped pass catching back who has rarely had the opportunity to really show off his skills, but may not be the back Arthur Smith is looking for with Ito Smith already in the fold as a pass catching option. Martin is a little more interesting as a potentially affordable multi-year starter at center for a team with no backup plan beyond Matt Hennessy at the moment, but he’s definitely be more of a stopgap at that position than anything else.
- The Broncos released veteran defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, a versatile player who has taken snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle and overlapped with Dean Pees in Tennessee. If he’s healthy, he’s a no-brainer target for Atlanta.
- Tennessee released wide receiver Adam Humphries, as well. The former Buccaneer is familiar to Falcons fans and to Arthur Smith, who could