The Falcons can surprise you in ways both large and small, but most of the time they’re doing that on the field. Cutting Jaylinn Hawkins before the seventh week of the season? That’s that rare off-the-field surprise.
Per NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the team has released Hawkins on Tuesday, with the 26-year-old safety now looking for a new team unless the Falcons can sneak him back on to the practice squad. My guess is that they didn’t make this move intending to do so, and that even if they did, they won’t have much luck.
Hawkins didn’t have much of a role this year under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, with DeMarcco Hellams drawing more snaps in two of the past three weeks on defense, but had been a core piece of the puzzle on special teams until this past week. He was one of the players who had a role in Atlanta’s blown coverage on Jamison Crowder’s huge punt return, but again, it’s hard to see any one thing that might’ve precipitated a cut. At worst, Hawkins was experienced, solid depth and a familiar face for special teams coordinator Marquice Williams, so this can’t really be spun as anything but a shock.
On Wednesday, the team confirmed the move and we learned that Micah Abernathy will be called up to the roster on a more permanent basis after being flexed for last Sunday. Atlanta now has two open practice squad spots.
Arthur Smith on releasing Jaylinn Hawkins: "I have a lot of respect for Hawk. I wish him the best in future." ... "Circumstances change."— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) October 18, 2023
Added it's an opportunity for someone like Micah Abernathy.
Still just 26 years old and less than a full season removed from starting for the Falcons, Hawkins shouldn’t have much trouble finding a new home, assuming there isn’t some major issue that prompted this release that we’re simply not aware of. It’s fair to wonder if this move comes before the Falcons make a roster addition via trade of pickup, but either way, it seems unlikely Hawkins will be back with Atlanta given his experience and potential value for other teams hunting for safety depth.
What this does mean is that DeMarcco Hellams is the third safety and will likely carve out a larger role on defense and special teams going forward. The team’s evident appreciation for Hellams and desire to give him a larger role are essentially confirmed by this move.
We wish Hawkins well wherever he lands, and we’ll see what’s next.