Change is inevitable. In the NFL, change is commonplace. The average career lasts 2.5 years for a player.
The Falcons are no different as they saw many players leave via free agency and many more that were released. With players like Julio Jones and Grady Jarrett looking for reworked contracts and extensions for others like Deion Jones and Austin Hooper looming next offseason, cuts were a foregone conclusion. And free agents were bound to leave because the Falcons can’t pay everyone. Some of those losses will hurt more than others.
K Matt Bryant
Money Matt earned his nickname for the number of big kicks he hit in his decade with the Falcons, becoming the Falcons’ all-time leading scorer with 1,122 career points.
It’s understandable why the organization had to cut Bryant. He’s 44-years old, dealt with a hamstring injury last year and still had two years left under contract.
According to Spotrac.com, Bryant’s cap hit would have been $4.16 million this year. Instead, the Falcons will only have to pay Bryant $1.33 million in dead money and Giorgio Tavecchio $645,000. That’s $2.025 million in net savings. But the Falcons might be regretting that if Taveccio can’t replicate similar production.
DE Bruce Irvin
After being cut by the Raiders, Irvin signed with the Falcons on a hometown discount. He recorded 6.5 sacks, 19 tackles, and one forced fumble between Oakland and Atlanta.
His sack numbers were better than his career average, while his tackles were down a lot. This can be attributed to him only playing 44.8% of the team’s snaps compared to 84.6%, 88.4% and 71.4% in his previous three years.
The Panthers signed away the defensive end for $4 million. Fans see there is still a glaring weakness with the pass rush as the Falcons failed to address the area of need in the draft. Plus, I would’ve liked to have seen Irvin back under Dan Quinn, whom he had tremendous success with in Seattle. So, while he may not have blown anyone away last year while in Atlanta, his loss from an already weak position group hurts the team.
RB Tevin Coleman
Coleman had 800 yards on the ground last year, which was a career high. Some will say it was a disappointing year for the running back. However, with the absence of Devonta Freeman, Coleman became the lead dog in the backfield, which is not his strength. He is best-suited as a complimentary back that did his damage spelling Freeman.
With a healthy Freeman back this year, the explosive one-two punch between him and Coleman will be sorely missed. It’s disappointing that they barely got to play together in their last season. That said, Coleman will move off of this list if fifth-round draft pick Qadree Ollison can effectively fill that backup role.