Falcons free up salary-cap room

In moves that shouldn’t come as a surprise, the Atlanta Falcons cut two former first-round picks Friday morning.

Defensive end Jamaal Anderson and wide receiver Michael Jenkins reportedly have been released. First and foremost, these moves are about money. The Falcons freed up nearly $8 million in salary-cap space with these releases. Could they be clearing the way to acquire a high-priced defensive end?

But these moves also say a lot about the state of the Falcons and how coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have built their team. Anderson, a 2007 pick, and Jenkins, a 2004 pick, were taken by prior regimes and neither player fit very well in the current system.

The Falcons tried to shop Jenkins for a trade, but found no takers. That’s probably because the rest of the league knew he would be released. Jenkins became expendable when the Falcons drafted Julio Jones in April.

Although he was a dependable starter for most of his career and considered one of the league’s top run-blocking receivers, Jenkins was not a downfield threat and rarely made things happen in the open field. The Falcons wanted more explosiveness in their passing game and that’s why they went out and drafted Jones.

Jenkins’ tenure can’t be considered a disappointment. He did some good things, but no longer fit the system. The same can’t be said for Anderson, who was drafted in Bobby Petrino’s one year as coach.

Anderson had only 4.5 sacks in his career and never became the pass-rushing force the Falcons hoped for. He did find a bit of a niche, rotating inside to play defensive tackle in the last two seasons under Smith, but the Falcons weren’t going to keep a backup defensive tackle with a salary-cap figure over $5 million.