The Atlanta Falcons are moving on from Asante Samuel.
Samuel was cut by the Falcons on Wednesday after two seasons with the team. The Falcons also released linebacker Stephen Nicholas on the day in a couple of cap-clearing moves.
Samuel, 33, lost his starting cornerback spot to rookie Robert Alford during the season and never seemed to be quite the same player he was during his first season in Atlanta, when he recorded 19 passes defended and five interceptions. In 2013, Samuel managed just three passes defended and one interception in 11 games.
Releasing the two players clears more than $6 million in cap space for the Falcons heading into the 2014 season. Samuel was slated to make $3.5 million in base salary with another $1 million in roster bonuses this season — the final year of his contract. So, while Samuel could provide some value to a still growing Falcons defense, he certainly didn’t seem worth the hefty price tag.
The Falcons, coming off a disappointing 4-12 campaign, are looking to do a bit of rebuilding this offseason, and they’ll need as much cap space as possible to do so, which is why releasing Samuel and Nicholas now makes the most sense.
While on the back nine of his career, a healthy Samuel could still be a viable asset for a number of contenders around the league. The Patriots and Eagles, where Samuel spent the first nine years of his career, may be interested in adding depth in the secondary this offseason.