ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons cleared an opening for rookie fullback Bradie Ewing on Tuesday when they released veteran Ovie Mughelli in a move that also frees salary cap space.
The move was not a surprise after the Falcons traded for cornerback Asante Samuel before last month's draft and selected Ewing in the fifth round. The Falcons needed to cut payroll, and Mughelli was an obvious target.
Mughelli, 31, was due to earn a base salary of $3 million in 2012. His 2011 season ended when he hurt his right knee in Week 7 at Detroit and was placed on injured reserve. Mughelli's 32nd birthday is June 10, nine days before the team's first minicamp for veterans.
The Falcons gave Mughelli a six-year, $18 million contract in 2007. He made 38 starts in 69 games with Atlanta.
Mughelli said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith left open the possibility that he might have a chance to re-sign with the team at a reduced salary.
"Thomas and the coach said that's a possibility in the future," Mughelli said. "We spoke this morning. They said in the coming days they're going to talk to my agent."
Mughelli said he was cleared by his doctors in time for one offseason workout with quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons on Monday.
"It was great to get back on the field if only for one day on Monday," Mughelli said. "I got to catch passes from Matt. For the first time in almost six or seven months I could really run on it, stopping and cutting and all that. It felt good."
He said he wasn't told if his release was strictly a financial move or if the team had any concern about his recovery.
"I tried to wedge it out of Thomas and coach to give me a specific reason," Mughelli said. "They said myriad of reasons. I'm not here to decide what's wrong, what's right in the business. You don't get to be a 10-year vet without seeing a lot of business decisions like this."