To create $6.5 million in salary cap space, the Atlanta Falcons released cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas, clearing the way for the team to be a player in the free agent market.
The period to sign new talent starts on March 11, and these two moves were significant. Samuel was scheduled to make $5.2 million in 2014 and will save the Falcons $4.5 million on the salary cap. Nicholas was set make $4 million and will save the Falcons $2 million the salary cap.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimtroff, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the Super Bowl: “Suffice it to say, we’ll be very mindful of our assessment of the readiness of some of our young players to potentially move into starting roles. Yes, there will be moves. There will be adjustments … There will be strong moves and there will be legitimate adjustments.”
The Falcons selected cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford in the first and second rounds of last year’s NFL Draft. Both played well, with Trufant making the PFWA’s all-rookie team. This did not bode well for Samuel, who spent two seasons with the Falcons. He had six interceptions 70 tackles (62 solo) and 20 defended passes.
Nicholas, selected in the fourth round by the Falcons, played in 101 games with 51 starts in seven seasons in Atlanta. He logged 397 total tackles (284 solo) with 10 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 12 defensed passes.