With Super Bowl XLVIII now squarely in the rear-view mirror, offseason moves are starting to get underway around the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons got a jump-start on the process by releasing a couple players, including Asante Samuel.
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports broke the news that the veteran defensive back along with linebacker Stephen Nicholas were both let go:
Jay Adams of the team's official site confirmed the moves.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network notes the Falcons will save $6.5 million in cap space by cutting the two defenders. These types of cost-saving maneuvers will become commonplace in the coming weeks as teams start preparing for the 2014 season.
The cuts make sense for Atlanta.
Nicholas was nothing more than a depth linebacker during the 2013 campaign. He has played his entire seven-year career with the Falcons, but made just 35 total tackles in 14 games last season. The team can find a serviceable alternative at a more team-friendly price.
Samuel was once one of the league's premier ball-hawking cornerbacks, as his 51 career interceptions illustrate. Only one of those came in 2013, however, as his play dropped off considerably. His lackluster performance was a key factor in the team's 21st-ranked pass defense.
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders pointed out after the season that Samuel's play had a direct impact on the team's drop-off:
Looking ahead, Desmond Trufant will likely take on a bigger role in the secondary after a solid rookie season. The Falcons can also add depth through the draft, which is probably how they will replace Nicholas, as well.
It all comes down to eliminating costs to give the front office more flexibility during the offseason, and after a down year in Atlanta, the team is looking at all avenues to make a quick turnaround.