Yesterday the Falcons released SLB Stephen Nicolas and CB Asante Samuel, clearing up something in the vicinity of $6M in space for the 2014 cap. A quick look at each player’s tenure in Atlanta.
The Falcons picked up 4-time Pro Bowler Samuel for next to nothing, giving up only a 7th round pick in the ’12 draft. He was a big help his first year, helping the secondary survive the loss of Brent Grimes. In 2013, Samuel wasn’t a bad player, playing like a league-average CB, but his play couldn’t justify his continued salary. Desmond Trufant is the #1 corner going forward and other, cheaper options will present themselves for Samuel’s spot. Robert McLain probably has the inside edge, though he is a RFA this offseason and, per Pro Football Focus, graded out worse than Samuel in 2013. It’s an area the Falcons will have to address this offseason.
Nicholas started only 4 games in 2013, though he was productive and helpful for the 133 snaps he played. His cut concludes a seven year stint in Atlanta which included a 4 year run, from ’09-’12, where he was useful if not a star. If Nicholas can stay healthy, he’ll be a productive LB for someone next year. For now, I suppose Joplo Bartu is penciled in as the ’14 SLB, as he seemed to get better as the year wore on and is a cheap upside play.
It’s obvious to all observers that this is a pivotal offseason for the Falcons, and more money probably can’t hurt, so it’s hard to hate either move, even though I did like both players.