FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia — The Atlanta Falcons started their offseason overhaul Monday by releasing a pair of defensive starters: longtime safety William Moore and linebacker Justin Durant.
Moore was a second-round pick in 2009 and one of the senior members of the team. He played in 76 games with 72 starts over seven seasons, earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2012.
But the hard-hitting Moore was plagued by injuries, playing all 16 games only twice in his career. This past year, he went on injured reserve in December with an ankle problem.
Durant was one of Atlanta's most notable free-agent signings a year ago, brought in with the hope of adding big-play capability to the defense after the hiring of coach Dan Quinn.
While Durant ranked second on the team with 81 tackles, he missed three games with injuries.
Clearly, he didn't provide the sort of impact the Falcons were hoping to get.
"We want to thank both of these guys for their commitment and work ethic," Quinn said in a statement. "They battled through injuries to give everything they had for their teammates this season and I will always be appreciative of that."
The 30-year-old Moore has 16 career interceptions and signed a five-year, $30 million contract after the 2012 season.
But his production dipped sharply the last two years — both cut short by injuries — and he didn't seem to fit in Quinn's scheme.
Durant, also 30, has participated in all 16 games only once in his nine-year career. He also played with Jacksonville, Detroit and Dallas before joining the Falcons.
By cutting the two players, Atlanta will take a combined cap hit of about $4.1 million for next season but freed up some $5.8 million to use in the free-agent market. Quinn has made it clear the team will again be targeting linebackers, after last year's signings of Durant and Brooks Reed failed to turn things around defensively.
The strong safety spot could stay in house with Kemal Ishmael, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who replaced Moore at the end of last season.
There also has been plenty of questions about the future of 34-year-old Roddy White, the leading receiver in franchise history. He had only 43 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown this past season, his worst numbers since 2006.
While the Falcons have expressed a desire to keep White, general manager Thomas Dimitroff has only said the receiver is under contract and being evaluated like everyone else on the roster.