The team's offensive scheme has passed him by, and Turner's talent has waned.
The Falcons should cut Michael Turner as soon as they can. Turner has become the team's Achilles heel. His inability to hit the holes with any sort of authority has turned an offensive line that used to be known for its excellent run blocking into one that is questioned in that discipline.
The main three reasons for Turner to stop being a Falcon are that he has been completely useless, the cap savings would be excellent for both 2012 and 2013 and the Falcons need to make sure they have something in the combination of Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers.
However, he also made somewhat of a call out of the offensive line earlier in the year (h/t AJC.com's Jeff Schultz), and the Falcons proved with Ray Edwards they don't want any locker room issues. Turner also has other off-the-field issues that will need to be addressed.
Michael Turner now has off-the-field issues
Ray Edwards was made an example of by being released last week after the loss to the New Orleans Saints. The reasoning behind it was a poor attitude off the field and and inability to buy into the team concept (h/t NFL.com's Marc Sessier). The big issue is that Michael Turner seems to be falling into the same traps.
It all started with partying off the field after a win, leading to a DUI arrest (h/t AJC.com's Mike Morris). Then, later on he subtly called out the offensive line. However, the Falcons don't play around with people who aren't going to buy into the team concept.
The Falcons want to have everyone on the same page. Having distractions like arrests combined with his on-the-field ineffectiveness will show that Turner is on borrowed time in Atlanta.
He would save cap in 2013 to retain more important players
According to Spotrac.com, the Falcons are on the hook for cap hits of $7.5 million and $8 million for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The Falcons would have to retain $2.5 million in their cap hit for signing bonus pro-ration should they cut the aging running back.
However, should the Falcons cut Turner, they would be even in 2012. They would also save $5.5 million towards the 2013 cap.
Of course, there is the small issue of finding someone to replace Turner.
Nonetheless, with a full slate of draft picks and a ton of excellent running backs in the draft, it would be much more cost effective to shed the salaries of Turner and bring in a rookie to see if he can be effective.
He's been completely ineffective
Michael Turner's stats show just the surface of how ineffective he is. He's got 156 carries for 578 yards and five touchdowns. However, when you take out his three longest runs of the year—and his only runs over 20 yards—his 3.73 yard average per carry drops to just 3.52.
He's also having an issue hitting the holes hard. In the 2008-2011 seasons, there was no question that Turner would run angry. But the past 10 games have shown that he lost his burst to the hole and that he can't be the bowling ball he was in 2008-2010.
Turner hasn't been the big playmaker he was in previous years. He also has just 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. But if you take out the 60-yard touchdown catch, he's averaging just 2.56 yards per catch.
For a guy to average less then four yards per touch at running back shows that he is completely ineffective. He looks to have a ton of trouble in the new pass-oriented scheme because he isn't fed the ball 20-25 times a game and can't get into a rhythm.
The issue is that the Falcons don't need to rely on Michael Turner for the offense anymore. With Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, the Falcons would be better off using the younger, more effective backs and cutting their losses with Turner.
The Falcons could see what they have in Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Jason Snelling
With Michael Turner out of the picture, the Falcons have three other backs on the roster who could prove to be much more effective—Rodgers, Snelling and Antone Smith.
Jacquizz Rodgers is very reminiscent of Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew. He has been hitting his stride over the past few games as the clutch option. Effectively using Rodgers on screens was a big reason why Atlanta was able to win the Dallas game late.
He also had the sealing run for the victory against the Arizona Cardinals. His 50 carries for 182 yards and 33 catches for 258 yards have shown his effectiveness as a third-down option out of the backfield.
However, would he be able to carry the load? 83 total touches this year over 10 games still leaves that question unable to be answered.
Jason Snelling is a guy who can play both fullback and tailback. He can block, catch and run. He's able to use his body mass to push piles, and he is always busting his hump to get through holes powerfully and effectively. His averages are down this year, but it can be attributed more to scheme change than effort.
Antone Smith is the real wild card here. He's proven that he is willing to do anything to earn a spot on the roster with his excellent special teams play. The biggest question with him is whether his speed and talent at special teams will transfer to the running back position. It's unlikely he'd be anything more than a third back though.
In the end, the best decision for Atlanta to make would be to part ways with its long-term running back. While the Falcons could wait for the end of the year, it makes more sense to bring in someone who is willing to run hard and work hard for every yard than to give Michael Turner another carry.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.
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