After weeks of speculation the Atlanta Falcons released running back Michael Turner on Friday, along with defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson, clearing some salary-cap room.
By releasing the three veterans, the Falcons have managed to put themselves $15.9 million under the cap, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Turner saved the team $6.4 million, Abraham $5.75 million, and Robinson $3.75 million.
“As a football coach it is never easy to cut any player, especially veteran players who have been valuable members of the organization,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The guys we released today have contributed to the success that we have had over the last five years, and and we greatly appreciate their efforts.”
The 31-year-old Turner, who spent four seasons with San Diego Chargers before signing with the Falcons in 2008, rushed 6,081 yards and 60 touchdowns in his five years with the team.
The Falcons acquired Abraham through a trade with the New York Jets in 2006. The 34-year-old Abraham remained with Falcons last season, even though he could have left in free agency. He signed a three-year, $16.72 million contract despite expressions of interest from the Titans and Broncos. According to the newspaper, there was at least one undisclosed NFL team with a more attractive offer for the defensive end.
During his seven seasons with the Falcons, Abraham had 68.5 sacks and collected 10 sacks last season.
The 30-year-old Robinson was halfway through a six-year, $57 million contract that he signed in March 2010. In his 47 games with the Falcons, Robinson amassed 214 tackles, 4 interceptions and 1.5 sacks.
Now that the Falcons have cleared salary cap space, they are confident that they will have the money to bring back Tony Gonzalez, if he chooses to return. Gonzalez has been contemplating retirement or playing for one more season.
But more importantly, the Falcons can now pursue another running back, more than likely Steven Jackson, who is expected to void his contract with St. Louis Rams.