Atlanta Falcons Will Reportedly Release RB Michael Turner

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

After five seasons, the Michael Turner era in Atlanta will reportedly come to an end.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Falcons are "likely" to let Turner go to save money against the salary cap for 2013.

Falcons are likely to release running back Michael Turner, who is scheduled to make $6.9 million this season.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 22, 2013

Falcons head coach Mike Smith neither denied nor confirmed the reports of his imminent release (via CBS Sports' Will Brinson).

"We're recalibrating our roster," Smith said. "Michael's under contract right now and we'll continue to go through the process in terms of how we're going to recalibrate it."

The writing has been on the wall for Turner in Atlanta basically since the team's season ended in the NFC Championship Game. He was very productive for Atlanta in 2010 and 2011, running for a combined 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns.

However, this season it became apparent that age was catching up to Turner. He lacked the power and explosiveness that made him one of the best running backs in the league during his first four years with the Falcons.

Turner finished this season with just 800 yards on 222 carries. That was the fewest carries he has had in a season since 2009, when he only played in 11 games. It was his lowest yardage total since he was the change-of-pace back with San Diego in 2007.

The Falcons still made use of Turner's bruising style at the goal line, as evidenced by his 10 touchdowns.

Despite his struggles in the regular season, Turner did come to life in the playoffs against Seattle. He ran for 98 yards on 14 carries in the NFC divisional round.

At 31 years old, Turner still has value around the league. He may not have enough left in the tank to be a starter, but he has proved himself as one of the best goal-line backs in the NFL. It shouldn't take too long for him to find a new job.

The Falcons do have depth at running back right now with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. It remains to be seen if the team will split carries between them or try to find a No. 1 back either through free agency or the draft.