Atlanta Falcons' Salary-Cap Constraints Have Caused Team's Greatest Weakness

Frank SpartiCorrespondent IIOctober 12, 2012

Former Atlanta Falcon Return Man Eric Weems
Former Atlanta Falcon Return Man Eric WeemsAl Bello/Getty Images

It can be argued that every team is constrained by the owner's self-imposed salary cap. However, not every team has the vulnerability that the Atlanta Falcons seem to have every time they lose a player due to economic issues.

The most important personnel losses of recent years show a pattern of management having trouble replacing players who are not signed to bigger deals.

This is part of the league's effort to promote parity, and it is hard to argue with at least the effectiveness of this policy.

First of all, the team lost DeAngelo Hall to the Oakland Raiders. But he was divisive in the locker room and a hothead on the field. The loss in this case was only that good cornerbacks are extremely difficult to come by. Atlanta struggled because of his departure. Let's hope management makes the right decision regarding Brent Grimes next season.

When Harvey Dahl received his payday from another team, Atlanta's offensive line went into a tailspin for at least a season and is not back to its former glory yet.

The run defense has certainly struggled and is looking suspect this season after the loss of Curtis Lofton. Maybe letting him go was the only thing to do when New Orleans was willing to pay him so well, but his stout tackling skills are sorely missed.

And there is no indication that his replacement is on the current roster.

Finally, the loss of Eric Weems struck the team in ways that were truly underestimated.

The Falcons' punt return game has caused numerous instances of the offense being pinned deep in its own territory. Yes, Matt Ryan led the team on a 99-yard game-winning drive, but that is no way to make a living or promote success.

Dominique Franks is ranked 23rd in the league in return yards. Only seven punts have been returned at all. To put this in perspective, opponents have returned punts 12 times against the Falcons.

The worst part is that, too often, there is no fair catch and no return. Opponents have been very successful at downing punts right at Atlanta's goal line.

These are just a few of the most glaring examples when the loss of players to free agency has come back to hurt the Falcons. Maybe it is a problem with needing to use cap funds better, or maybe it shows a lack in roster depth. Either way, it is a problem.

In my opinion, the team could have restructured some contracts and kept a couple of these players. Only time will tell if other players on the roster step up in the areas needed most.