The Atlanta Falcons will release safety Thomas DeCoud no later than March 15, according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports. The move comes as little surprise, considering the level of DeCoud's recent play and his remaining contract, which still has three years and $13 million left.
Atlanta comes into the offseason with a bevy of questions after having a shockingly disastrous season in 2013 where they went 4-12 to earn the sixth pick in May's NFL Draft. With the cutting of DeCoud, the Falcons will save $3 million in cap space this offseason and only have to eat $3.6 million of dead money over the remainder of his contract. Overall, Atlanta projects to have approximately $30 million of cap space.
DeCoud had been a stalwart over the years for the Falcons, playing almost every game as the starting free safety the past five seasons. However, after turning in a very nice 2012 campaign that saw a career-high six interceptions, DeCoud's production fell off in 2013. Last year, DeCoud registered only 65 tackles -- the lowest total since his rookie season -- and zero interceptions.
For Atlanta, cutting DeCoud allows it to pursue other free safeties on the open market, of which there are quite a few. The top name on the list is Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills, who is expected to command top-dollar provided the Bills do not franchise tag him. Byrd could be paid around $8 million per year, but provides Pro Bowl-level play.
Over at The Falcoholic, DeCoud's impending release was discussed by Dave Choate, who had mixed feelings on the subject:
If this comes to pass -- and I have to believe it will -- DeCoud's Atlanta career will end on a sour note. He was the team's starting free safety for five seasons, turning in one stellar, turnover-filled year, a couple of average to above average ones and last year's train wreck. Along the way, he has been a fun presence and a trash-talking ballhawk on a fairly muted team. I want the Falcons to upgrade on the position, but I don't think DeCoud's contributions should go unrecognized.
Of the 86 safeties that qualified for ranking on Pro Football Focus, DeCoud came in an ugly 83rd with a -16.0 rating. His worst attribute was coverage, also putting him 83rd in that category with a -11.3.
DeCoud will surely be picked up by somebody at a much lower salary, and probably given a chance to compete for either a starting spot or a sub-package role. Turning 29 years old in March, DeCoud potentially has some good years left in him. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him good.