Last week I wrote about how in the NFL off-season, teams are at times forced to make moves that leave fans scratching their heads and feeling frustrated. The Atlanta Falcons found themselves in such a position, and had to make some necessary moves to free up salary cap space by cutting three popular, and arguably productive players.
Such is the price of doing business in modern sports.
The three players released–RB Michael Turner, DE John Abraham and DB Dunta Robinson–all had contributed to the Falcons recent run of success, but all of them were high priced players who were either declining in production, or didn’t fit into the future plans of the team.
I doubt that anyone was surprised (or terribly upset) about the expected release of Turner, who had seen his production–as well as his role with the team–diminish of the past couple of seasons. Abraham and Robinson were somewhat unexpected cuts, although not entirely. Turner wasn’t the back that he was when he came to the Falcons in 2008, and he definitely wasn’t the back that Atlanta needed in their current offensive scheme.
The fan vote would clearly be in favor of keeping the popular Abraham, while you might see a split down the middle on the value of Robinson to the team in the eyes of fans.
Abraham is 34, and has had a punishing career in the league, although he is still playing at a fairly high level. Some might argue the logic in letting 10.5 sacks walk out the door, especially when you only had 29 total sacks as a team. But in truth, the Falcons had probably siphoned every really good season they were going to get out of Abraham, and the cost of keeping him just outweighed the probable results on the field.
Robinson is a different story. Ever since his days with the Houston Texans, Dunta Robinson’s game has been laying the bit hit to illicit a collective “Ohhhhh!!” from the crowd. Great stuff for highlight reels and pregame crowd pumping, but not so much in the practical application of his position. For every de-cleater that Robinson laid on an opponent, there were three or four attempted hits where he would simply bounce of the shoulder of the ball carrier.
Plus, in today’s NFL, having poor tackling technique and always going for the big smash do little but bring penalties and fines. Robinson has to improve his tackling form, regardless of where he plays.
The bottom line is this: by cutting these three players, the Falcons are now approximately $15.9 million under the cap, and now have some room to work on a contract extension for QB Matt Ryan, as well as trying to re-sign free agents like safety William Moore and OT Sam Baker (who had a much improved season in 2012). It also allows the Falcons the ability to at least explore the possibilities of going after some big name free agents to fill some much needed holes.
As I’ve said in the past, sometimes the unpopular moves are the ones that a team needs to make. The Falcons may lose face with the fans for a short time, but taking the next step towards a Super Bowl win isn’t always about the fans.