The Falcons released seven players today in their attempts to begin the rebuilding process under new head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Among those released were some prominent names including: defensive tackle Rod Coleman, tight end Alge Crumpler, offensive tackle Wayne Gandy, quarterback Byron Leftwich, cornerback Lewis Sanders, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, and wide receiver Jamin Elliott.
Coleman was one of the team’s big free agent signings in 2004. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2005. In four years with the Falcons, he recorded 114 tackles and 30 sacks, and was considered one of the top interior pass rushers in the league. But this past year, he missed 11 games as he nursed several injuries, and was limited to just 7 tackles and 2 sacks in five starts.
Crumpler ends seven years with the Falcons. He was originally a second round pick in 2001, and led the Falcons in receiving yards for three straight seasons (2004-06). Crumpler went to the Pro Bowl four straight years (2003-06). Over his Falcon career, he had caught 316 passes for 4212 yards and 35 touchdowns, and ranks among the top receivers in Falcons history. Last season he had 42 catches for 444 yards, which was his lowest total in yards since his rookie season. His drop in production was mainly due to injuries and increasing age.
The Falcons acquired Gandy via trade in 2006. He started 16 games that season at left tackle, but missed 11 games this past year due to a torn ACL. Gandy turned 37 this past week and was likely released due to his age.
The Falcons added Leftwich after Week 2 of the season to challenge Joey Harrington for the starting position. Leftwich’s career has long been plagued by injuries, and he was unable to shake that stigma in Atlanta. He managed 2 starts this year, passing for 279 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.
Sanders and Wilkins were both free agent signings for the team last year. Sanders started 6 games before poor play forced him to the bench. In 14 games, he recorded 33 tackles with no interceptions. Wilkins played exclusively on special teams this year, not notching a single tackle on defense. He finished the year with only 5 tackles on special teams in 15 games. It was a marked decrease from previous production, since in his final three years with the Cincinnati Bengals, he tallied at least 16 stops on special teams.
Elliott sat out the entire year with injury, after going on injured reserve in August. He originally joined the team in 2006, and spent most of that season on their practice squad, before being activated to the roster for the final game of that season. Despite being in the league since 2002, Elliott has never had a reception and has only appeared in a total of 3 games.