Falcons dump Michael Turner, John Abraham, Dunta Robinson

The Atlanta Falcons fell on drive short of reaching the Super Bowl this past season.

They will try to get back to that point – and over the hump – in 2013. And they will do so with a fresh cast in some big roles. The club announced this morning that running back Michael Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson have all been released.

It’s not surprising. Turner’s demise had long been expected with a big salary of $6.9 million for this coming season, he was unlikely to remain with the club. Turner’s release creates $6.4 million in savings under the salary cap and the release of the trip saves the Falcons a total of $15.9 million under the cap, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Falcons can now use the savings and focus on re-signing tight end Tony Gonzalez and extending the contracts of players like cornerback Brent Grimes, safety William Moore and left tackle Sam Baker. A new contract for quarterback Matt Ryan is also something the franchise will have to tackle in the near future. “In 2008, we came in here and we were the youngest team in the NFL,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “This last year, we were one of the oldest teams.”

Turner averaged only 3.6 yards per carry and the Falcons have been linked to Steven Jackson as a possible replacement. Finding someone to boost a lacking pass rush is key, though. Abraham has 122 career sacks, more than any other active player in the NFL. But he’s not the same player he was previously. Now, the Falcons need to find upgrades.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune