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Falcons may cut as many as a dozen players

By STEVE WYCHE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 02/14/08

The Falcons' roster will undergo a radical change and those moves could come as soon as Friday.

Several veterans will be cut and there could be some surprises, according to interviews with NFL officials and player agents by the Journal-Constitution. The radical changes will come at nearly every position.

Among the veterans who could be released is strong safety Lawyer Milloy, said one NFL official familiar with the Falcons' internal personnel discussions. Such a move would strip the Falcons of their most respected leader and leave the team without either of last season's starting safeties. Free safety Chris Crocker's contract is expiring, and the Falcons don't plan to re-sign him.

The offense could be in for a complete makeover as offensive linemen Wayne Gandy, Kynan Forney and Todd Weiner, wide receivers Joe Horn and Brian Finneran, tailback Warrick Dunn and quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich all have had their futures debated.

Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking could be among those released to the defense.

"They have to figure out how big this is going to be because they still have to line up and play 16 games next season," the NFL official told the AJC about the upcoming roster overhaul.

There are a variety of reasons for the moves, including scheme fit, salary-cap ramifications, age, injury or giving veterans a chance to sign with another team that might be a better fit. With a new general manager and head coach, the personnel discussions that have taken place within the organization will result in the 2008 Falcons looking drastically different than the squad that finished 4-12 in 2007.

"We are just going to see how it all shakes out," said Butch Williams, the agent for tight end Alge Crumpler. "With so many new people in the front office and so many new coaches, it's hard to tell. We'll see."

Some agents anticipate their clients being handed their walking papers or being asked to alter their contracts. They request that if the Falcons cut their players it is done soon so they can begin working the free-agent market, which opens Feb. 29.

"If they do it, just do it quick," Williams said.

New general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith said they want to be strong up the middle, and many of the potential changes appear to be coming from tailback through safety.

Dunn, 33 and in the final year of his contract, counts $6.3 million against the salary cap. He might not be the proper fit for new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's scheme. Harrington or Leftwich, and perhaps both, could be released.

Forney is in the last year of his deal that pays him nearly $3 million. Gandy (36, coming off season-ending knee surgery) and Weiner, whose season-ending knee surgery might not allow him to be ready to start the season, could also be replaced.

Adding at least one defensive tackle is a priority, but it might not come at the expense of cutting players. Brooking isn't expected to play middle linebacker again for the Falcons and if he is back with the team, he probably would be moved to his natural weakside position.

If Milloy returns, it will be his final year and a replacement must be groomed. More immediate help is needed at free safety. Jimmy Williams might get a shot to compete for the starting job, but more help is expected to come via free agency or the draft.

Making sure there is enough incoming talent or talent on the roster to fill in for players also will play a huge role in who stays.

Though Crumpler is coming off a down season, was limited by knee problems and carries a $4.7 million cap charge, there simply might not be anyone on the team or available in the draft or free agency who would make cutting him worthwhile, the NFL official said.

"He's had a good experience in Atlanta," Williams said of Crumpler, a four-time Pro Bowler. "Subject to them doing something, we're status quo."

Staff writer D. Orlando Ledbetter contributed to this article.

Is cutting a large number of high-priced veteran players a long-term fix, a short-term fix or no solution at all for the Falcons? hmmmmmmmmmmm.......

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might as well just release the entire veteran/team leader squad. I mean that's basically all our good players that aren't young. We'd be left with a bunch of inexperienced players with no leaders to look up to. Our only good players left would be white, boley, hall. And since we want to get rid of hall too, might as well just not have any good players on the team.

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Personally, I think this is good news. The front office is going to try actually establish a competetive team. Crump need to be one of those whoe stay because he is a leader and has produce really well for us. I think we have the full intention to go after Albert Haynesworth or a big name guy at a specific need postion that will fix our system. Hopefully, Max Starks is one who we are going after.

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One player I was a little surprised to see on the list was Milloy. I thought he had a decent season and would be needed to provided some veteran leadership. As stated, this would leave us with no proven starting safeties. I know there are many factors to be considered with these decisions, but I think leadership is important.

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YoungHeezy (2/14/2008)
swiftkick (2/14/2008)
Crumpler and Brooking should finish their careers as Falcons...

Crumpler was not a fit for a Petrino style run offense and Brooking is still a decent LB that needs to be moved outside

You do NOT want Keith Brooking outside.

Agreed.

Time to clean house and start over. New leaders will emerge eventually.

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somecut8 (2/14/2008)
might as well just release the entire veteran/team leader squad. I mean that's basically all our good players that aren't young. We'd be left with a bunch of inexperienced players with no leaders to look up to. Our only good players left would be white, boley, hall. And since we want to get rid of hall too, might as well just not have any good players on the team.

Well we went 4-12 with those same veterans so....

Change is good, we're REBUILDING PEOPLE. Let the vets go and give them a chance to go to a team that's competing for a SB within the next 3 years. I appreciate everything the vets but it comes to a point when it is time to move on.. Change isnt that bad.

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We've been waiting for this and we are still waiting. It seems the article is still a lot of speculation, so hopefully for us fans and for the players - TD makes his moves soon. I would like to see us keep one or two of the veterans for leadership. Steve's article talks about the agents already getting calls -- so he does know names.

I guess we'll see tomorrow.

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FalconMama (2/14/2008)
somecut8 (2/14/2008)
might as well just release the entire veteran/team leader squad. I mean that's basically all our good players that aren't young. We'd be left with a bunch of inexperienced players with no leaders to look up to. Our only good players left would be white, boley, hall. And since we want to get rid of hall too, might as well just not have any good players on the team.

Well we went 4-12 with those same veterans so....

Change is good, we're REBUILDING PEOPLE. Let the vets go and give them a chance to go to a team that's competing for a SB within the next 3 years. I appreciate everything the vets but it comes to a point when it is time to move on.. Change isnt that bad.

We went 4-12 because of a bad coach.

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I wouldnt mind re-signing Crocker...he played really well last season in Zimmer's scheme.

Milloy, as much as I wouldnt mind cutting him, is an OK player.

We have no depth behind either safety position.

Dunn is one of my favorite NFL players ever, but his cap hit is substantial for what he brings to the field. If he was making vet min, I would like to keep him as the 3rd down back.

Brooking....yeah let him go.

Forney...yeah let him go.

Lefty and Harrington....yeah let 'em go.

The silver lining in last season is that we had 11 draft picks and 4 UDFA's play A LOT....this bodes well for our future.

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TALKING ABOUT LETTING A PLAYER GO IS ONE THING. BUT ACTUALLY LETTING HIM GO IS ANOTHER. THE OWNER, GM AND COACH, THATS THEIR GROUND. WHO GOES AND WHO STAYS, THATS NOT IN OUR HANDS. NOR IS IT IN THE HANDS OF THE NEWSPAPER WRITER'S. I DON'T LET THESE GUYS ARTICLES SWAY ME ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. I JUST WAIT AND SEE WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS. WE CAN ONLY HOPE FOR THE BEST.:)

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First of all, it is a move that has to happen. The worst thing in this league is to have an aging football team that tops out at 8-8.

We should keep Crumpler. Crump is a quality receiver, a steady veteran, and a very good blocker that plays "team" football. He has been held back by injuries, but should be functional again next season.

I believe that Forney and McClure should be kept long enough to trade to a zone blocking team. The two of them could easily fetch us a third rounder.....or better yet, a shot at a QB that fits our offense. One such example is Andrew Walter.

We should drop Brooking, Dunn, Gandy, Sanders, Ojinnaka, Wilkerson, Leftwich, Finneran, Horn, and Harrington. Although I would hate to see Brooking and Dunn leave, both are good enough to easily find employment elsewhere. Dropping all that cap space should provide us enough room to go after Ken Hamlin and Corey Williams.

Coleman and Milloy should stay. They are both quality players at need positions. Coleman seems to like it here, so I would ask him to renegotiate to help with the cap. They are also leadership guys that can stabilize a team during this huge transition.

The best part of the article is when they mention that we want to:

get stronger up the middle.

That is music to my ears.

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