Falcons cut Samuel, Nicholas

The Atlanta Falcons have started the process of changing the roster for next season by releasing veteran cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas.

Both players lost their starting positions as the Falcons struggled to a 4-12 record.

Samuel, who was drafted in New England by new Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli, was benched in favor of rookie cornerback Robert Alford. Samuel battled a thigh injury to start the season but simply got beat out in the end.

The 33-year-old Samuel was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2003. He has 51 career interceptions and is the only player in NFL history to register at least one interception return for a touchdown in each of his first six seasons.

Samuel told ESPN.com he would like to play at least "two or three'' more seasons.

Nicholas, a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2007, was the team's leading tackler in 2012. The emergence of undrafted rookie linebackers Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu made Nicholas dispensable. Nicholas missed two games with a quad injury last season.

Releasing Samuel saved the Falcons $4.5 million in cap room. Releasing Nicholas made for $2 million in savings.