There was a time when the offense of the Atlanta Falcons ran on the powerful legs of Michael Turner. For five years, he has been the most consistent offensive weapon in Atlanta, but now NFL Rumors have it that Turner will not play in another game as a Falcon.
This does not come much as a surprise as we have watched Atlanta change their offensive identity over the last few seasons, morphing from a power running attack into an aerial assault. It has been the natural progression of a team growing with its talented quarterback.
Matt Ryan has changed the way the Falcons do things over the last couple of years. After adding top tier talent at the wide receiver position and luring in an NFL Legend at tight end, it makes sense that the offensive focus would revolve around the passing attack. It is a shift that has served the Falcons well, with Roddy White and Julio Jones becoming the most productive receiving duo in the league and the Falcons leading the NFC from wire-to-wire during the 2012 season.
Turner’s production numbers from this last season do not warrant the $6.9 million the Falcons would have to pay him in 2013. His carries dropped by nearly 80 attempts in 2012, which translated into a 500 yard difference from his production in 2011. He set career lows in nearly every category there is and he was a liability on short yardage attempts. Should the Falcons release him in the next month or two, it would open up roughly $4.4 million in cap space for a team that is rumored to have practically zero wiggle room right now.
It is hard to imagine Turner hanging up at his cleats just yet. There will certainly be a team or two that will jump at the opportunity to add a veteran running back to their locker room. Turner may have lost a step or two, but he is still the back that scored 61 times over the last five seasons, and he may feel he still has something to give.