The Falcons may have been just 10 yards short from reaching Super Bowl XLVII, but don’t expect them to stand pat in 2013.
Like old crooner Sam Cooke use to sing, “A change is gonna come.” Contending teams that remain stagnant in the NFL risk falling back into the pack of mediocrity.
The Falcons have some key decisions to make on mainstays like center Todd McClure, defensive end John Abraham, running back Michael Turner, cornerback Brent Grimes, linebacker Stephen Nicholas, left tackle Sam Baker and safety William Moore.
The team is also waiting to hear from tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is set to retire. Coach Mike Smith stated that they’d like him to return and has expressed the team’s position to Gonzalez and his representatives.
“We know there are going to be decisions that need to be made,” Smith said.
Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s administration, the Falcons have built the team through the draft. Since 2008, the Falcons have drafted 38 players. Of that group, 13 were starters last season, 17 were backups, three are with other teams and five are out of the league.
The Falcons have also started to favor younger (less expensive) players over veterans. Last season they released veteran long snapper Joe Zelenka and went with rookie Josh Harris, saving more than $500,000.
Some of the players who will not return may not know it until late April after they’ve been supplanted by draft picks. Last season, the Falcons drafted fullback Bradie Ewing and then released former Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli, saving more than $3 million in salary cap space.
The Falcons will have some extremely tough decisions. Michael Turner, who’s scheduled to receive $6.9 million in base salary next season, could be a candidate to have his contract renegotiated or even be replaced by a running back from the draft.
By shrewdly managing their salary cap, the Falcons were able to afford cornerback Asante Samuel’s salary last season after renegotiating cornerback Dunta Robinson’s contract.
Abraham, Turner could be released to create salary cap space
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Feb 5