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Dissecting the Falcons’ final cuts

The Atlanta Falcons have officially trimmed down to the 53-man roster.

Although, much can change as teams will be claiming players on the waiver wire and forming their own 10-man practice squad, the core is set.

Atlanta started the final cut process off by making a splash on Friday with the acquisition of guard Andy Levitre from Tennessee. The Falcons sent a 2016 sixth-round selection and a future conditional pick to the Titans in exchange for Levitre’s services.

Levitre, a sixth-year pro, fell out of favor in Tennessee this offseason after signing a six-year, $46.8 million deal with $13 million in guaranteed money in 2013. The Oregon State product has started 96 consecutive games since entering the league with Buffalo as a second-round pick.

He figures to start at left guard over second-year Montana State product Mike Person. Although Levitre was shipped off for very little, the Falcons receive a proven commodity who can come in right away and improve Matt Ryan’s protection up front.

First wave of cuts

Atlanta’s cut process on Friday started with eight players. The group included quarterbacks Rex Grossman and T.J. Yates, defensive end Cliff Matthews, linebacker Terrell Manning, tackle Jake Rodgers, guard Jared Smith, cornerback Kevin White and safety Sean Baker.

Yates was acquired last offseason from Houston, but the fifth-year veteran couldn’t beat out Sean Renfree for the backup job to Ryan. Grossman lasted just 11 days on the Falcons roster and is likely done in the NFL barring an injury elsewhere.

None of the other players were expected to contribute much. Matthews was in his fifth season while the rest were special teams/practice squad players at best.

Cliff Matthews needs to find a new home away from Atlanta.

Cliff Matthews needs to find a new home away from Atlanta.

Second wave

On Saturday, Atlanta made 16 more moves, including 13 cuts.

Linebackers Derek Akunne, Tyler Starr and Stansly Maponga, offensive linemen Pierce Burton and Eric Lefeld, cornerback Akeem King, nose tackle Joey Mbu and wide receiver Carlton Mitchell were flat out waived. Offensive lineman Adam Replogle, running back Jerome Smith and tight end D.J. Tialavea were waived/injured, while tight end Tony Moeaki and running back Antone Smith reached injury settlements.

In addition to those releases, the Falcons placed guard Jon Asamoah, fullback Collin Mooney and cornerback Travis Howard on injured reserve.

The offseason acquisition of veteran right guard Chris Chester has made life easier for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Given that, losing Jon Asamoah for the year isn’t a tough pill to swallow despite the fact that he started 15 games at right guard last season.

In terms of the other moves made by the Falcons, subtracting Moeaki and Smith could be problematic. Currently, Atlanta has pass-catching tight end Jacob Tamme listed at No. 1 on their depth chart with third-year man Levine Toilolo listed as the only other player at the position. Expect them to add another tight end to the mix real soon.

At running back, Atlanta will run with a two-headed rotation with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield with undrafted rookie Terron Ward as the third back. Smith’s departure due to a hamstring injury is bad for the depth at running back, but just like at tight end, the Falcons could scan the waiver wire for help.

Notable

Atlanta has seven rookies on their roster: Vic Beasley Jr. (DE), Jalen Collins (CB), Justin Hardy (WR), Grady Jarrett (DT) and Coleman (RB) as well as college free agents Robenson Therezie (S) and Terron Ward (RB).

Final Thought

Bottomline, none of these moves should come as a surprise. The Falcons are poised to make a run in the NFC South under first-year coach Dan Quinn.

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