Pondering Michael Turner's future

Jeff Schultz wonders about what a lot of fans in Atlanta are going to be thinking about this offseason -- Michael Turner's future with the Falcons.

Heck, I can assure you the coaching staff and the front office will be giving that matter a lot of thought in the coming weeks.

Schultz isn’t saying absolutely the Falcons should cut or trade Turner and he’s not saying Turner should continue getting 300 carries and being a focal point of the offense. He’s simply pointing out the facts and stating that they make it obvious that Turner’s future should be pondered.

He’s going to be turning 30 next month and history shows us that running backs almost always go into decline after hitting that age. Heck, Turner seemed to go into decline the second half of the 2011 season. It might have been his age or it might have been a lingering groin injury that slowed him.

Turner also has a lot of mileage on his legs. Although he spent the first half of his career as a backup in San Diego, he’s had a ton of carries since joining the Falcons in 2008. He could be wearing down.

The Falcons also will be installing some new elements to their offense with new coordinator Dirk Koetter and they could go away from Turner’s power style or at least reduce his role if he stays.

But what about the Falcons parting ways with Turner?

If they went this route, you’d like to see the Falcons get a nice draft pick in return. But, for all the reasons we covered above, I’d have a tough time seeing another team give up an early draft pick for an aging running back. At best, the Falcons might be able to get a middle- or late-round pick for Turner. That team also would have to pick up a contract that would pay Turner $5 million in 2012 and $5.5 million in 2013, so I’d say a late-round pick is a more likely scenario.

Simply cutting Turner isn’t totally out of the question. He’s scheduled to count $7 million against the 2012 salary cap. But I just checked the specifics of his contract. The Falcons would take a $4 million cap hit if they cut Turner. But they’d also free up $3 million in cap space.