The Falcons are gearing up for 2021 NFL free agency, which will begin in earnest when the new league year starts on March 17. We’re still likely to see a flurry of moves from Atlanta—including more veteran cuts and restructures to a few big contracts—to get the team under the cap. Right now, the Falcons are sitting at a projected -$20M in cap space, so the team clearly has some work to do over the next week and a half.
With more cuts coming, it’s obvious that Atlanta will need to rely on both the 2021 NFL Draft and free agency to fill out their roster. The team currently has just 39 players under contract, which means they’ll need to add a minimum of 14 players over the offseason. That’s far too many for just the draft—the Falcons are currently slated to have nine selections with three projected compensatory picks—so we’ll have to look towards free agency as well.
With minimal cap flexibility, the team might need to take a chance on a few high-upside veterans with injury concerns. One of those veterans could be former Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, who was told he’ll be cut by the Lions.
Lions have informed starting CB Desmond Trufant that he will be released at the start of the league this year later this month, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2021
Trufant had six strong seasons with the Falcons after being selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was a key piece on defense, particularly in a secondary that was routinely low on talent. After an injury-shortened 2019, Atlanta elected to part ways with Trufant. He signed a two-year, $19.5M deal with Detroit to take over for the recently-traded Darius Slay.
Unfortunately, Trufant’s injury issues followed him to the Lions. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 against the Bears which sidelined him until Week 4’s matchup with the Saints. That injury would continue to flare up throughout the season, as Trufant missed Weeks 6-8 before returning for a 4-game stretch from Weeks 9-12. He was placed on IR prior to Week 13 and missed the remainder of the year.
While hobbled with the hamstring injury, Trufant did not play well for Detroit. He allowed a 68.8% completion percentage and a 111.3 passer rating when targeted. PFF graded him out with an abysmal 38.4. It was the worst season of his career, and it led to the Lions moving on after just one season.
Because of that down year—and the multitude of other issues facing veterans in the 2021 offseason—Trufant could be a high-upside value signing for a team willing to take a chance on him. Although Trufant missed 7 games in 2019 with injury, he still played well and graded out as an above-average 70.2 according to PFF.
The Falcons are going to be quite desperate for help on defense and won’t have much money at their disposal. A reunion with Trufant—who would be the CB2 at best in Atlanta with A.J. Terrell handling the CB1 role—could make sense for both sides. Much depends on how much Trufant is looking for in a contract, and how high Atlanta’s tolerance is for his injury history. It’s important to note that Trufant will still be getting $3.5M in guaranteed salary from the Lions in 2021, so he might be more willing to take a cheap one-year “prove it” deal.
Trufant will be 31 during the 2021 season and is entering the back half of his career, but he’s been a quality starting CB outside of last season. Should the Falcons consider bringing back their former first-rounder if the price is right?