Alex Marvez of FOX Sports cites sources that the Atlanta Falcons have released linebacker Stephen Nicholas and cornerback Asante Samuel today. Marvez’s report was subsequently confirmed by the team. NFL teams were allowed to begin releasing players starting this past Monday, and the release of veterans such as Nicholas and Samuel had long been expected. Nicholas was on the roster bubble since last summer’s training camp, while Samuel’s exit seemed inevitable once the team opted to bench him at the end of the 2013 season.
Per figures at OverTheCap.com, the combined release of both players frees up over $6 million in cap space for the Falcons. Nicholas was set to count $4 million against the Falcons’ 2014 cap, and frees up $2 million in cap savings. Samuel was set to count nearly $5 million against the 2014 cap, and his release frees up roughly $4.2 million.
Nicholas first joined the Falcons as a fourth-round draft pick in 2007. He was a reserve with the team his first two seasons before assuming the starting strong-side linebacker position in 2009. He would maintain that grip on the starting position through the 2012 season, before losing it this past year. For his career, Nicholas appeared in 101 games, starting 50 of them. He also recorded 329 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles over the course of his Falcon career.
Samuel was traded to the Falcons from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 in exchange of a seventh-round draft pick. Samuel started 25 games over the course of two seasons with the Falcons, missing some time due to injury. During that span, he recorded 66 tackles, 6 interceptions and 22 pass deflections. Samuel came to the Falcons after playing four seasons with the Eagles and five seasons with the New England Patriots. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in 2003, Samuel would earn four Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl titles over the course of his 11-year career. His 51 career interceptions currently rank fourth among active NFL players on the all-time list. For his career, Samuel also has 437 tackles, 145 pass deflections, and six pick-sixes.