The Atlanta Falcons have decided to move on from wideout Leonard Hankerson, releasing him from the team. Other teams are now allowed to put in waiver claims for him if they’d like. That may not happen since Hankerson was on IR, but it’s worth noting that, according to NBC’s Zac Jackson:
“The Falcons releasing [Hankerson] from IR means he has been medically cleared.”
When the season started, the Falcons went 5-0 and Hankerson was considered a big part of the offense. He put up 17 of his 26 catches on the year in the first four contests, playing in a total of eight games. He had 327 yards and three scores on the year.
However, injuries sidelined him for multiple games. It’s not the sole reason that the Falcons began collapsing—they’ve won on a single game since starting 5-0—but it played a role. In December, after Hankerson aggravated an injury to his hamstring, the team deactivated him, sending him to IR.
To release him outright is a bit strange. It’s hard to imagine they’re afraid a hamstring injury is that serious, especially if he’s been medically cleared, and he could come back next season and be just as important to the offense. Clearly, the Falcons have to be thinking about next season at this point, coming off of a blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Of course, the release makes no difference in how the season will play out for them, since he was already out of the picture with the injury. Still, with the record they have, you’d think the Falcons would be glad to have any talent possible for the future.