Falcons make final cuts, save a spot for Matt Bryant

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn watch over the second day of rookie minicamp on Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Flowery Branch.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn watch over the second day of rookie minicamp on Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons believed they solved their kicking woes before they cut their roster to 52 players before the NFL deadline Saturday.

The team agreed to terms with kicker Matt Bryant for one-year, $3 million deal, waived kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and released former Georgia standout Blair Walsh.

The Bryant transaction will not clear the league office until Monday. Once Bryant’s deal clears, the Falcons will be at the 53-man maximum.

The Falcons, who are hoping to rebound from a 7-9 season, are set to open the season, the 100th in league history, at the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. Sept. 8.

“That’s the plan,” Bryant wrote in a text to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution when asked whether he came back to chase a Super Bowl ring.

Bryant, who was released by the Falcons in February, essentially got three months off and a slight raise.

Tavecchio missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt, and Walsh made a 46-yard attempt in the Falcons 31-12 victory over Jacksonville in the exhibition season finale Thursday.

Tavecchio has missed 5 of 8 field-goal attempts this exhibition season, with misses from 54, 53, 52, 52 and 39 yards. His misses foiled the Falcons’ plan to get younger and cheaper at the position. He was set to make $645,000 this season.

Walsh, who made only 5 of 9 kicks in practice Tuesday, was out of football in 2018. However, he was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro kicker as a rookie in 2012.

Bryant, who turned 44 in May, was the Falcons’ kicker for the past 10 years.

The initial release of Bryant created $2.8 million in cap space for the Falcons. Before his release, Bryant was set to make $2.45 million this season.

Now, he’s getting a raise.

In 10 seasons with the Falcons, Bryant made 250 of 282 field-goal attempts. Over his 17-year career, Bryant has made 388 of 450 field-goal attempts.

The most memorable field goal in Bryant’s tenure with the Falcons might be the 49-yarder that gave the Falcons a 30-28 victory over Seattle in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs. It was the Falcons’ first playoff win since 2004.

Bryant’s 1,717 career points rank fifth among the NFL’s all-time active points leaders. Bryant’s 388 field goals over his career, would rank fourth among active field-goal leaders. He also scored more than 100 points in a single season 10 times during his career – only 17 other players have accomplished this feat 10 or more times.

Tony Brooks-James, the fifth running back on the Falcons’ depth chart, turned in a dazzling performance in the exhibition-season finale but was cut, while speedy wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, an undrafted rookie from Virginia, made the initial final roster.

Brooks-James rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the Falcons’ win over the Jaguars.

Also, linebackers Jermaine Grace and Duke Riley made the roster and veteran Bruce Carter was released.

Veteran tight end Logan Paulsen was beaten out by Jaeden Graham. Paulsen, who started 10 games last season, was waived.

On the defensive line, second-year player Deadrin Senat beat out Ra’Shede Hageman, who was trying to make a comeback after being out of football for two seasons.

Now that the roster is essentially set, the Falcons will fill out their 10-player practice squad starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

In 2019, a practice-squad player can earn a minimum of $8,000 per week during the regular season and the playoffs, according to the collective bargaining agreement. There is no cap on the salary.

The practice squad normally consists of rookies and undrafted free agents. The team can carry up to four veterans, who have no more than two accrued NFL seasons (six games on the 53-man roster qualifies as an accrued season).

Brooks-James certainly will be a practice-squad candidate if he isn’t claimed on waivers.

Wide receiver Christian Blake, who had a superb exhibition and drew praise from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, is another top practice squad candidate.

In the secondary, Chris Cooper, normally a safety, played well at nickel back, was released. He’s a veteran candidate for the practice squad.

Here’s the Falcons’ projected depth chart:

OFFENSE 

Quarterback: Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. 

Running backs: Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Kenyon Barner and Qadree Ollison. Fullback -- Ricky Ortiz (fullback).  

Wide receivers: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy and Olamide Zacheaus.

Tight ends: Austin Hooper, Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham.

Left tackle: Jake Matthews, Matt Gono

Left guard: James Carpenter, Jamon Brown

Center: Alex Mack, Wes Schweitzer

Right guard: Chris Lindstrom, Wes Schweitzer

Right tackle: Ty Sambrailo, Kaleb McGary

DEFENSE

Defensive end: Vic Beasley, Allen Bailey

Defensive tackle: Jack Crawford, Tyeler Davison

Defensive tackle: Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat, John Cominsky

Defensive end: Takk McKinley, Adrian Clayborn 

Weakside Linebacker: Foye Oluokun, Duke Riley

Middle linebacker:  Deion Jones, Jermaine Grace

Strongside linebacker: De'Vondre Campbell,

Right cornerback: Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield 

Left cornerback: Desmond Trufant, Blidi Wreh-Wilson,

Nickel back: Damontae Kazee, Jordan Miller

Free safety: Ricardo Allen, Sharrod Neasman

Strong safety: Keanu Neal, Kemal Ishmael  

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Matt Bosher (punter), Josh Harris (long snapper), Matt Bryant (kicker), Kenjon Barner (punt returner) and Ito Smith (kickoff returner)

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