The Atlanta Falcons made it official today and released three of the team’s best players and big-name veteran starters, running back Michael Turner, defensive back Dunta Robinson and defensive end John Abraham.
The release of Turner, who rushed for just 800 yards last season and 3.9 yards per carry was expected, but Abraham and Robinson’s releases were a bit surprising.
Robinson, a former first-round pick of the Houston Texans, signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Falcons in 2010. He managed just four interceptions in three seasons, although he had 24 passes defended.
Abraham, meanwhile, played at a high level during much of his seven years in Atlanta. Originally drafted by the Jets, Abraham had 32.5 sacks the last three seasons, including 10 sacks in 2012.
Robinson is expected to be in line for the biggest free agency payday of the three. The 5’10” corner will turn 31 before the beginning of next season. All three players are over the age of 30.
There should be a market for all three players, although all are considered on the downsides of solid NFL careers. In general, running backs don’t command much in free agency, especially ones with more than 1,600 carries over an eight-year period.
The move is likely a result of the Falcons desire to free up salary cap space. Abraham was due $3.25 million in base salary in 2013, Turner’s deal called for $5.5 million, and Robinson was set to earn an $8 million salary. While the cost-cutting moves saved the Falcons an estimated $22.75 million in cap space, considering roster bonuses they are due to give to each player, the challenge now will be to find three quality starters who will save the team money and be able to replicate the production of the three guys they released.