The Atlanta Falcons are the latest team to clean house in an attempt to clear space under the salary cap. The team's official Twitter account confirmed the news on Friday morning.
The Falcons today have released veterans Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham.— Atlanta_Falcons (@Atlanta_Falcons) March 1, 2013
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Dunta Robinson, John Abraham and Michael Turner will help save the team big money against the salary cap:
Turner's release saves the team $6.4 million under the salary cap. Abraham saves the $5.75 million and Robinson saves $3.75 million. In all, the team got $15.9 million under the salary cap by releasing the three veterans.
All three players filled significant roles for the Falcons last season. Turner remained the team's lead back despite slowing production, Robinson ranked third on the squad in tackles and Abraham led Atlanta with 10 sacks.
While the Falcons do provide themselves with more cap space heading into the offseason, there are now three holes they will need to fill through free agency or the draft. The front office will probably seek younger options.
Of the three releases, Abraham is the biggest surprise considering the Falcons' lack of pass-rushing options. No other player on the roster recorded more than four sacks last season, which made the veteran defensive end's presence crucial to their success.
Even at age 34, he was able to get consistent pressure off the edge—an increasingly important skill with all of the high-powered passing games around the NFL. Without a serious push up front, star quarterbacks can tear a secondary to shreds.
Finding somebody who can replace Abraham has suddenly become the team's top offseason priority.
Robinson played all 16 games in a secondary that led the league by allowing just 14 passing touchdowns. Although he's never lived up to the hype of being the 10th overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft, he has developed into a reliable starting corner.
Which release surprises you most?
As for Turner, his numbers dropped off significantly last season. He finished with just 800 yards rushing, his lowest total as a member of the Falcons. His subpar yards-per-carry average, which plummeted to 3.6, was at the core of his regression.
Running back is a position where Atlanta can feel confident, though. Jacquizz Rodgers is capable of taking on a larger role, and there are always backs available later in the draft that are ready to make an immediate impact.
The Falcons have also been rumored to have interest in Steven Jackson, who will reportedly void the final year of his contract with the St. Louis Rams to test free agency.
Although these moves were probably necessary in light of the salary cap, the Falcons' offseason to-do list just got a lot longer.