Samuel, who turned 33 last month, battled injuries early in the 2013 season and grabbed just one interception, his lowest mark since 2004. He had been set to enter the final year of his contract, and was on the books for a cap number of $5MM+. By waiving him now, the Falcons avoid having to pay Samuel’s base salary or roster bonus, creating $4MM+ in savings.
Nicholas, meanwhile, played a reduced role in Atlanta after starting 15 of the team’s 16 contests in 2012. His contract had been set to expire in 2016. He’ll still be on the books for $2MM in dead money for 2014, but by releasing him, the Falcons are able to cut his $4MM cap number in half.
Overall, the Falcons, who had been in the middle of the pack among NFL teams in terms of projected 2014 cap space, clear more than $6MM from their 2014 books with the two roster moves. That’ll give the club a little more breathing room as it explores possible moves to upgrade its offensive and defensive lines.
As for Samuel and Nicholas, since both players have at least four years of NFL experience, they’ll become unrestricted free agents without having to pass through waivers. In spite of a down year in 2013, Samuel tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that he still hopes to play for “two or three” more seasons.