Falcons face secondary decisions with Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes

Kevin C. Cox

Without much money, will the Falcons sacrifice a veteran to keep their secondary in order?

As of today, the Atlanta Falcons have about $5 million to play with before hitting the 2013 salary cap. That might create some tough decisions over the next few months.

One of the team's biggest area of concern is the secondary. Brent Grimes is an unrestricted free agent, while Dunta Robinson is clogging up $9 million in cap space next season. The Falcons could free up $6 million if they cut the nine-year veteran.

With tight cap space, keeping both Grimes and Robinson seems unlikely right now.

Grimes is a talented cornerback who has been a starter for the Falcons -- when healthy -- over the last three seasons. Grimes started the first game of 2012 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he tore his Achilles tendon and missed the remainder of the season.

Grimes was franchised in 2012. He made $10.28 million for playing one game.

On the other hand, Robinson has missed only one game in his three seasons with the Falcons. In 2012, Robinson recorded 80 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and an interception. He's owed $32.5 million over the next three seasons, which is his biggest downside for a money-tight team.

Perhaps Robinson will restructure his deal to create cap room for the Falcons. He did that last year to give the Falcons some flexibility. This would help the Falcons out now, but it could put the NFC runners-up in the same position for 2014.

Considering Grimes is coming off a one-game season, he should be fairly cheap. Some teams will bet on him being healthy and return to his normal play (he had 80 tackles and five interceptions in 16 games in 2010, his best season as a pro) but the Achilles injury will still scare some teams away.

But here's the wild card in the whole scenario: Michael Turner.

The veteran running back has lost a step or two over the past couple of seasons. He's going to be 31 and it seems his best days are behind him. Turner is due $8.9 million against the cap in 2013. If there is a perfect time for the Falcons to cut Turner and grab a running back in the draft, it's now.

With Turner gone, the Falcons would have cap room that would allow them to re-sign a (hopefully) cheap Grimes. The Falcons know Grimes better than anyone, so if they think Grimes will be back to 100 percent, they'll re-sign him. If the money is right, of course.

This would also allow Atlanta to keep Robinson's contract intact. Add Asante Samuel to the mix -- who will make $11.7 over the final two years of his contract -- and the Falcons will keep their top three cornerbacks in the mix for a couple of seasons, depending on how Grimes' contract plays out.

But do the Falcons want to keep Robinson and his contract intact? James Rael of The Falcoholic says no:

Robinson is a good corner back. At times, during the 2012 season, he was the best corner back on the field. But is he worth what we must pay him (absent additional tweaking of this contract)? I'd say no. In fact, I'd say no adamantly, while waiving my arms around in the air like Dave after a Mad Dog 50/50 bender.

With a little cap room magic, it's possible that Grimes and Robinson can both be back with the Falcons next season. But the Falcons also need to make an all-important decision: Do they even want one -- or both -- back with the club next year?

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