Falcons let go of Turner, Robinson, and AbrahamAdam Schefter of ESPN tweeted early Friday morning that the Falcons are expected to make three bold moves today by releasing running back Michael Turner, cornerback Dunta Robinson, and defensive end John Abraham. The move has since been confirmed by the team’s official site. The move to cut Turner has long been expected after a lackluster 2012 season for the veteran runner. Robinson’s status seemed iffy, although the value of his play on the field didn’t appear to match the value that would be reaped in cap savings if cut loose. Abraham’s future seemed to be a bit less tenuous given he led the team in 2012 with 10 sacks. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC, the Falcons have now saved roughly $16 million in cap space for 2013. Brian McIntyre of NFL.com puts the cap savings higher, approaching $19 million.
Turner is coming off a year where he led the Falcons in rushing, but only had 800 yards on 222 carries (3.6 avg) and 10 touchdowns. For his career, Turner played five seasons with the Falcons, rushing for 6,081 yards and 60 touchdowns, placing him second all-time on the team’s rushing yards list, and first on rushing touchdowns. Turner was the Falcons first major move of the Dimitroff-Smith Era back in 2008, being signed by the team at the start of free agency. He proved to be the foundation of the Falcons offense for the next three years, but with the continued growth of Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game began to take a backseat on offense in 2011. That ultimately culminated with a 2012 season where many believed that his backup, Jacquizz Rodgers was the better option in the starting lineup. The Falcons freed up about $6 million in cap space by cutting Turner.
Robinson had a bit of a resurgent year in 2012 after struggling in 2011. But he still had issues in coverage, despite being able to make more plays vs. the run and as a blitzer off the edge. Robinson was signed by the Falcons in 2010 to one of the biggest contracts given to a corner. He was expected to be a No. 1 corner for the team, helping solve the issues that plagued a porous secondary in recent years. But in 2010, Brent Grimes emerged as the team’s de facto top corner, and Robinson had mediocre production. Grimes is now a free agent, and the potential of his return is possibly helped by Robinson’s release. Previous reports indicated that the Falcons would free up roughly $6 million by releasing Robinson, although Ledbetter indicates that number is closer to $4 million.
Abraham first joined the Falcons in 2006, when the team parted ways with their No. 1 pick to acquire him from the New York Jets. His first year in Atlanta was an injury-plagued season where he only played in 8 games. He rebounded the following year, and led the team in sacks both in 2007 (10 sacks) and 2008 (16.5). He had a down 2009 season where he only had 5.5 sacks, but bounced back in 2010 with a 13-sack season, once again being the leader on the team. He has led the team in each of the past two seasons. Over seven years in Atlanta, Abraham has collected a total of 68.5 sacks, which ranks only behind Claude Humphrey on the team’s all-time list. Ledbetter indicates the Falcons freed up nearly $6 million in cap space by cutting Abraham.
It’s possible that the Falcons could re-sign any of the trio back to much cheaper deals. Although one could expect all three players will test the market in order to see where their statuses lie. Given his recent production, it would seem likely Abraham probably stands the best odds to sign a lucrative deal elsewhere. The Falcons have been linked to a number of potential free agents that could be replacements for either.
Rams running back Steven Jackson has been rumored to be on the Falcons radar. Pass rushers like former Colts end Dwight Freeney has also been connected to the Falcons.