Umenyiora Optimistic About Return To Falcons

The Falcons parted ways with one big-name defender last week for cap purposes, officially releasing cornerback Asante Samuel and creating more than $4MM in cap savings. Atlanta may not be done making moves, but veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora remains optimistic about returning to the Falcons, in spite of his $4.75MM cap number for 2014.

“I would love to stay, and I think I am,” Umenyiora told Vaughn McClure of “But you really never know what’s going to happen.”

While Samuel struggled through an injury-plagued 2013, Umenyiora remained fairly productive in his first year with the Falcons, recording 47 tackles and 7.5 sacks, forcing three fumbles, and even returning an interception for a touchdown. Still, although Umenyiora remains an asset, releasing him would create $3.5MM in cap space for the club, which could be put toward multiple young players. The Falcons figure to retool their defensive line this offseason in an effort to improve their pass rush, but even in a situational role, the 32-year-old feels like he’s earning his pay.

“To say that money is not a lot would be crazy because that’s a lot of money, period,” Umenyiora said of his cap number. “But if you look at it strictly in football terms and what the top-tier defensive ends are getting paid. … Mario Williams, who is making like, what, $16MM per year? It’s tough for me to answer that [money] question because it all depends on what my perceived value to the team is.”

Whether or not the Falcons ultimately decide to retain him for 2014, Umenyiora intends to continue his playing career through this season and beyond, telling McClure that he hopes to play three more seasons in the NFL.

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