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Atlanta Falcons cut Asante Samuel, Stephen Nicholas

The Atlanta Falcons aren't wasting any time getting their house in order following a crash-and-burn, four-win campaign that saw the team go from first to worst in the NFC South.

The Falcons announced Wednesday that veteran cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas were released.

Neither move was surprising after Samuel, 33, lost his starting job to rookie Robert Alford down the stretch. After fighting injuries and appearing in just 11 games this season, Samuel was set to cost $5.25 million in salary and bonuses in 2014. The team saves just more than $4 million by setting him free.

Nicholas had started in 50 games for Atlanta -- including all 16 in 2012 -- since being drafted by the Falcons in the fourth round in 2007. But after falling out of the starting rotation this season, his $3 million hit for 2014 made him an obvious choice for a team looking to trim the fat (and get younger) before free agency begins.

We wouldn't be surprised to see another team snatch up Samuel, but with his replacement already on the 53-man roster, the Falcons weren't about to keep him. Atlanta is more than a player or two away from returning to prominence, meaning additional moves are likely in the coming weeks.

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