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Falcons 'Dead Money' Demands Rookies Perform

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Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant warms up during the Falcons rookie mini-camp held recently in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant warms up during the Falcons rookie mini-camp held recently in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons concluded their rookie minicamp over weekend.

It was the first chance for Falcons coaches to get a glimpse at players they hope will make an impact on defense this fall. Atlanta spent four of its first five picks on defense in the 2013 NFL Draft and the organization is banking on rookies,  cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, along with defensive ends Mallicah Goodman and Stansly Maponga, to make their presence felt.

They're draft picks expected to help on the field, but also with the Falcons' salary cap issues with regard to dead money.

Dead money in the NFL refers to salary cap dollars allocated to players no longer on the  roster. This occurs when players with guaranteed dollars on their contracts are released from the team before the contract is expired. The offseason releases of Michael Turner, John Abraham, Tyson Clabo and Dunta Robinson have left the team with $11.5 million in dead money for the 2013 season. That figure is the second-highest in the NFC, behind Arizona at $12.5 million.

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, dead money keeps the Falcons from signing veteran free agents who could help put the team over the top. At the very least, dead money limits Atlanta from committing more dollars to the defensive side of the football.

NFC contenders such as Green Bay ($157,000), San Francisco ($957,000), Seattle ($5.1 million) and New York ($6.7 million) have kept their salary caps low enough to maintain flexibility in the free agent market. Even NFC South rival New Orleans has only $1.1 million dollars of dead money on the books.

After finishing just short of a trip to the Super Bowl, the Falcons have hopes of seeing their defensive rookies to contribute right away, especially since the Falcons aren't expected to get much help this summer from the veteran free agent market.