The Atlanta Falcons announced that they have released wide receiver Roddy White, the longest-tenured player on the roster. The Falcons made White their top selection in the 2005 NFL Draft and over the past 11 years the receiver has gone to break all of the team’s receiving records. Over his stint in Atlanta, the four-time Pro Bowler caught 808 catches for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns, all team records.
White’s production came to a sharp decline in 2015 with just 43 catches for 506 yards and a single touchdown after averaging 88 receptions, 1,175 yards and 11 touchdowns in the eight previous seasons as a starter. White was vocal about his lack of usage early in the season when in Week Two he had his first game since 2006 where he was held without a catch. That was followed up by two receptions for just eight yards over the next two weeks before his public declaration about his usage. White did see increased production and usage following the Falcons’ Week 10 bye week, yet it was still a far cry from his usual production over his entire career.
White, 34, also struggled with injuries as well in recent years missing a combined five games in 2013 and 2014, but also gutting through other injuries through large portions of the other seasons, which helped prompt the drop in production in both seasons. He did not miss a single game through the first eight years of his NFL career until 2013.
As a first-round pick out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, White came to Atlanta with high expectations in 2005. However he failed to meet those expectations due to self-professed immaturity issues leading to an inability to impact on the field. However in 2007 things turned around for White thanks in part to the guidance of veteran receiver Joe Horn. That continued in 2008 with the introduction of new wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, who took a very active role in White’s development. White earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl that year with a then career-high of 88 receptions for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns.
He continued to improve upon those marks over the next two seasons, maturing alongside quarterback Matt Ryan. In 2009, White set a career benchmark with 11 receiving touchdowns and in 2010 set new career-highs with 115 receptions and 1,389 yards. His reception total in 2010 topped the entire league.
Yet despite his enduring legacy as one of the greatest receivers in Falcons history, White’s age, declining production and high price tag led to his dismissal. According to Over the Cap, the Falcons will save $2.3625 million against their 2016 salary cap by releasing White and avoiding his $6.1375 million cap hit. White professed earlier this offseason that he had no plans to take a pay cut in order to stay on with the Falcons.
White indicated after the season that he would remain a “Falcon forever and ever,” raising questions about whether or not he will decide to continue playing in another uniform or opt to retire. White told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he would like to keep playing for another year or two.
Upon his release, fellow 2005 draftee in defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux now becomes the team’s longest-tenured player.
Team owner Arthur Blank released a statement upon White’s release:
“Roddy is one of the greatest players to ever put on a Falcons uniform, and even more importantly he is a man of tremendous character that I and my entire family have profound personal affection and respect for. I have developed a special relationship with him over the years, my children have grown admiring him and our partners and I all share a debt of gratitude for what he has meant to us and our team. Truly, there are no words to adequately express my thanks for all he has meant to me, my family, the Falcons and to this community, both on and off the field. He has been a difference maker in every way and has touched numerous lives here in Atlanta.
Roddy will forever be part of the Falcons family and I’m confident our fans will always remember and be grateful for the exemplary way he has represented them over the last 11 years. We wish him nothing but the very best and, on a personal level, we look forward to a lifetime relationship with Roddy and his family.
It is always a challenge to balance how we feel about a particular player with the implications of the salary cap, as well as the clear commitment we have to our fans and stakeholders to assemble a championship-caliber roster each and every year. After a lot of discussion with Thomas (Dimitroff), Dan (Quinn), and others, the difficult decision we’ve made today was ultimately driven by the need to address some key areas on our roster and ultimately to meet that commitment.”