With quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract extension looming over the offseason, the Falcons faced some tough financial decisions.
Several former key players were released or not re-signed, including former Pro Bowlers cornerback Brent Grimes and right tackle Tyson Clabo.
The upstart Miami Dolphins (2-0) snapped up both of them, and they’re ready for their reunion game against the Falcons (1-1) at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
“I always knew there was a chance that I wasn’t coming back,” said Grimes, who signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Dolphins on March 30. “You know how it is with the salary cap and people they have to keep and people they had to pay a certain amount of money. … I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t like it came out of nowhere that I went to another team. I was ready and expecting that maybe that could happen.”
Clabo made it through the initial roster purge that saw running back Michael Turner, defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson released in January. The Falcons, perhaps uncertain about the linemen behind Clabo, didn’t release him until April.
He received the news via a 7:30 a.m. wake-up call. He is no longer upset over the team’s business decision.
“You can’t live in the past,” Clabo said. “I’m happy down here. I had a great time and a great experience up there on that team, but now you have to move on, and I have.”
Both will have mixed emotions Sunday.
“It would have been cool to stay, but that’s how this league is,” said Grimes, who made a game-saving interception to help the Dolphins beat Indianapolis on Sunday. “Things don’t work out all of the time. It was time to move on, so I went to another team and I like it here.”
Clabo, 32, has played all 134 offensive snaps for the Dolphins at right tackle. Before this season, he was the only right tackle that Ryan had played behind.
“We were all together for a really long time,” Clabo said. “We won a lot of football games, and we developed some pretty awesome friendships. Obviously, that’s going to be tough.”
Grimes doesn’t want any revenge against the Falcons, who’ll play without four starters because of injury.
“When we get out there and I see all the people that I’m cool with, all of my friends that I haven’t seen in a little bit, I’ll say what’s up,” Grimes said. “But once that ball is kicked off, it’s just another game that both teams will be trying to win.”
He’s looking forward to seeing his old practice partners in Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.
“They present a great deal of challenges,” Grimes said. “They are big. They are fast. They are everything that you want your receivers to be, and when they get the ball, they are not going down easy. They can do everything.”
Grimes and Clabo have been welcome additions in Miami.
“Brent has been an excellent addition for us,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s very, very competitive. Clabo is a true pro. He still loves the game, loves coming to work. He’s been a nice addition as well.”
The Falcons look forward to seeing their former comrades. Free safety Thomas DeCoud remains close with Grimes.
“He’s adjusting really well,” DeCoud said. “He’s making some plays for them. He’s always been a great football player.”
Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, who spent a year going against Clabo in practice, is expected to start for Kroy Biermann (torn right Achilles tendon).
“I know some great things about him,” Massaquoi said. “He’s a veteran, and he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. You have to definitely turn on the film and go watch him.”
Left guard Justin Blalock talks to Clabo regularly.
“It’s always good to see old friends,” said Blalock, who noted the Falcons played former teammate Harvey Dahl on Sunday and will face Will Svitek when they play New England on Sept. 29.
“Actually, we have a pretty unique scheduling opportunity to see three of our ex-linemen in a row. It’s nice to see the guys and catch up with them.”
After the season-ending injury to Mike Johnson, Lamar Holmes won Clabo’s vacant right tackle spot.
“I learned a lot from Clabo,” Holmes said. “Clabo’s been in the league for a long time. Clabo is very smart.”