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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons release safety Thomas DeCoud, Tony Gonzalez

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110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud flies to block a ball in a simulated punt drill during the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. His days with the team could be numbered.    Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110801 Flowery Branch – Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud flys to block a ball in a simulated punt drill during the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. His days with the team could be numbered. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Free safety Thomas DeCoud, a year after going to the Pro Bowl as an alternate, was released by the Falcons on Tuesday.

The team, in need of Tony Gonzalez’ salary cap space, was also officially released.

“We would like to begin by thanking Tony for his contributions to our organization, community and fan base over the last five seasons,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released by the team. “There is no doubt that he is the best tight end to ever play the game and will have a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tony was the consummate professional that led by example. He was one of the hardest working players I have ever been around and has left a lasting impact on this team.

 “This was a decision we had to make with the start of the new League year as we begin retooling our roster for 2014. On behalf of the entire Falcons organization, we wish Tony all the best in his television career and thank him for everything he did for this franchise.”

If Gonzalez decides to come out of retirement, he’d be a free agent and eligible to sign with any team. 

In 2012, DeCoud made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He replaced Dashon Goldson, who advanced to the Super Bowl when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.

DeCoud, who turns 29 on March 18, led Atlanta with six interceptions and ranked second in the league among safeties in that category. DeCoud’s 89 tackles was fifth on the team.

He was not able to carry that level of performance into the 2013 season.

Last season, DeCoud dropped from being rated as the 64th safety in the league to the 83rd rated safety, by profootballfocus.com. His overall play against the run and in coverage dipped dramatically.

He started 15 games and had 83 tackles and two interceptions.

In 2011, the Falcons re-signed DeCoud to a five-year $17.5 million contract.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff calls them “salary-cap casualties,” and it’s a league-wide practice.

“I believe in the NFL today, so-called cap casualties are an issue for every team unless you’re at the top of the heap with $30 million to $40 million dollars available,” he said. “It’s something that we will get into as we continue to analyze and re-evaluate this roster as it stands.”

The Falcons have already cut veterans Asante Samuel, Stephen Nicholas and Garrett Reynolds. Also, running back Jason Snelling retired after seven seasons in the league.

A major part of DeCoud’s contract was set to become guaranteed on March 15.

Releasing DeCoud, 28, would save the Falcons $3 million.

Last season, DeCoud took to social media to vent his frustrations with this season.

Earlier in the season, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said DeCoud was in a slump and Nolan hoped that he’d pull out of it.

On his verified Twitter account, @TwentyAte28, DeCoud wrote, “By no means am I sittin here acting like I’m balling’ out there… but if you don’t know those three things I state.. you really have no room talk…” He linked to what appeared to be a journal entry through Instagram that read: “I understand that someone has to be the lightning rod for everyone’s frustration … but if you don’t know the huddle call…. The rules of our defense… or our game plan…you have no clue what’s goin’ on out there… I don’t care how much football you THINK you know…it’s a lot more going on than you can fathom.”

DeCoud was known to appear in all of the open locker room sessions and was more than generous with his time, was selected as the Falcons’ 2012 Good Guy Award winner by the local chapter of Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

The articulate and affable DeCoud always gave thoughtful and helpful responses.

The Good Guy Award is given to a player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs.

DeCoud was apart of Dimitroff’s first draft class in 2008. He was selected in the third round (98th overall) out of California.

He starred on special teams as a rookie before starting all 16 games in 2009. He started all 16 games in 2010 and continued to ascending in the league. In 2011, he started 15 of 16 games.

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