David Canter, the agent of Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Paul Soliai, reported late last night that the team plans to release the veteran player at the start of the league year due to the inability of either side to come to terms with a contract restructuring. News had broken a day earlier by Jason Cole of Bleacher Report that the team had approached Soliai’s representation about lowering his cap figure in 2016. Per Cole, the Falcons will designate Soliai as a post-June 1 release, meaning that his contract will remain on their books until June 1, but they will get added relief due to less of his remaining signing bonus accelerating to the team’s 2016 cap as dead money.
Soliai, 32, was the team’s biggest free-agent signing to start off the 2014 offseason, brought over from the Miami Dolphins where he had previously worked with then Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for a couple of seasons. The Falcons hoped that Soliai’s presence would help solidify a porous run defense in 2014. However, Soliai struggled throughout the 2014 campaign, finishing the year with 30 tackles and one sack in 14 starts.
However with the coaching change at the start of 2015 upon the hiring of Dan Quinn as the new head coach of Falcons, Soliai saw improved play this past season. He finished the year with 22 tackles and a fumble recovery while starting 10 of 14 games. However, he was plagued at the end of the season by a calf injury that put him on injured reserve for the final game.
Due to the $32 million contract he signed in 2014, Soliai was set to carry a cap hit approaching $6.9 million in 2016. Once his contract is off the books beginning June 2, that hit will lower to $1.4 million, saving the Falcons slightly less than $5.5 million against their 2016 salary cap. The Falcons will carry an additional dead money hit of $2.8 million in 2017.
The money that will be freed up to start the summer could contribute to the Falcons signing their rookie draft class. Last year, the team’s seven draft selections merited a rookie salary cap of roughly $6.2 million. As things sit today the Falcons only have five draft picks in 2016, indicating their rookie class might cost them a figure between $5-$5.5 million to sign, making the impending cap relief garnered from Soliai’s release ideal.
Soliai was originally a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2007. He became a regular starter for that team starting in 2010 and earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2012. Through nine seasons in the NFL, Soliai has started 86 of 128 career games, recorded 213 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.