Falcons Reduce Roster to 52 Players

Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY SportsAntone Smith

The Atlanta Falcons announced several roster moves today as part of their efforts to get their roster down to 53 players. In fact, the team reduced their roster to 52 players, indicating that subsequent moves will be made soon to add another player.

The Falcons waived linebackers Derek Akunne and Tyler Starr, offensive tackle Pierce Burton, cornerback Akeem King, offensive guard Eric Lefeld, defensive end Stansly Maponga, defensive tackle Joey Mbu and wide receiver Carlton Mitchell. All eight players are eligible for the team’s 10-man practice squad that will be established tomorrow afternoon.

The team also waived/injured guard Adam Replogle, running back Jerome Smith and tight end D.J. Tialavea (knee). All three players will go on the Falcons’ injured reserve if they clear waivers. The team also placed guard Jon Asamoah (hip), fullback Collin Mooney (elbow) and cornerback Travis Howard (shoulder) directly on the injured reserve.

Veteran tight end Tony Moeaki was outright released, making him immediately a free agent and thus won’t be subject to waivers. Running back Antone Smith (hamstring) reached an injury settlement with the team, also making him a free agent.

Akunne, Lefeld and Mbu were undrafted free agents signed by the Falcons after this year’s draft. Akunne missed some time this summer with a foot injury but managed to return to compete in the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this week. Lefeld was cut earlier this week, but was brought back for a few more days on the roster. Mbu impressed as a run-stuffer towards the end of the preseason.

Starr was a seventh-round pick in 2014. He spent his rookie season on the roster, but never was active for any game.

King was picked in the seventh round in 2015, trying to make the conversion from safety to cornerback.

Maponga was a sixth-round pick in 2013. Mitchell was signed in June after a successful tryout with the team. Over the past two seasons, Maponga played in 24 games with the Falcons, collecting eight tackles, one sack and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Replogle was originally an undrafted free agent for the Falcons in 2013, spending the bulk of the past two seasons on their practice squad. He began his NFL career at defensive tackle, but was moved to guard last summer. He added center to his repertoire this summer.

Smith, an undrafted rookie free agent with Falcons in 2014, spent most of his rookie season on the team’s practice squad but did manage to play in one game at the end of the year. After limited usage last summer, Smith managed to lead the Falcons in rushing in three out of their four preseason games this year.

Tialavea was signed by the Falcons earlier this month, after spending his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent. He impressed with his blocking and special teams play this preseason before suffering an injury  against the Ravens.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah

Asamoah seemingly suffered his hip injury the previous week against the Dolphins as he sat out practice before the Ravens game and missed the Falcons’ final preseason contest. He was unceremoniously benched early this summer, never to regain his starting right guard spot after a very successful 2014 season, his first in Atlanta. Prior to joining the Falcons a year ago, Asamoah was a top-notch guard for the Kansas City Chiefs for four seasons.

Mooney left the Ravens game with his injury and was neck-and-neck with Patrick DiMarco in the competition for the fullback position. Mooney had a couple of splash plays this summer with the Falcons, his first with the team. He caught a 60-yard pass against the New York Jets and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery against the Ravens.

Howard was a late signing this summer, being added to the Falcons roster less than three weeks ago. He quickly moved up the depth chart, working with the Falcons’ second string against the Dolphins, but he too was injured against the Ravens.

Moeaki was signed by the Falcons this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. He played with the Seattle Seahawks a year ago, primarily as a blocking tight end, which was the same role he was expected to fill in Atlanta. But in part to the improvement made by Levine Toilolo this summer, he apparently became more expendable. It’s worth noting that Moeaki was limited by an ankle injury earlier this week.

Smith first joined the Falcons in 2009, spending his first season on their practice squad. He made the roster the following season and spent the bulk of the next four years playing on special teams with only eight offensive touches. But in 2014, he was given more opportunities on offense, averaging 10.2 yards on 36 offensive touches with five scores. However, a hamstring injury limited him through this summer, which he suffered in the team’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.

The Falcons also made eight moves yesterday ahead of today’s deadline.

Two undrafted free agents: running back Terron Ward and safety Robenson Therezie seemingly have made the roster. Five of the team’s seven draft picks made the roster, with seventh-rounders King and Jake Rodgers the only ones that did not.

These moves leave the Falcons with two quarterbacks, four running backs, seven wide receivers, two tight ends and eight offensive linemen. Nine defensive linemen, seven linebackers, five cornerbacks and five safeties make up their defense, while they still retain three core specialists on special teams. Clearly with the roster currently at 52, there are more moves that will be coming.

Currently there are 22 players that are featured on the team’s current roster that were not on the team’s active or inactive roster as of Week 17 of last season. Presumably with one more spot to fill, that will indicate 23 newcomers or 43 percent roster turnover.

The Falcons may still place linebacker Brooks Reed on short-term injured reserve list given his recent groin surgery that is expected to keep him out for six weeks. The Falcons can make that move tomorrow. Also tomorrow, the team will have the opportunity to establish their 10-man practice squad.


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Aaron Freeman
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