ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons released kicker Matt Bryant on Wednesday, ending the 10-year run of the team’s all-time leading scorer.
The decision to not renew the team’s option on the 43-year-old Bryant comes despite another strong season in 2018, when he made 20 of 21 field goals and 33 of 35 extra points.
Bryant’s only missed field goal was from 53 yards at Green Bay. He said the miss was "probably like a 60-yarder on a normal field."
Health concerns could have played a role in the Falcons’ decision. Bryant missed three games with a hamstring injury.
Bryant insisted he is healthy.
"I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my off-season program," he said on Twitter .
Bryant also thanked Falcons fans for their support and added : "I take great pride in my body of work on and off the field. I hope I have represented you well while I was here."
Bryant recently told The Associated Press he wants to extend his career.
"Yes, I am 43, and different things come along with that," Bryant said. "As long as I can produce the way I think I can and I do it out there on the field, I’ll take the bumps and bruises. … Oh yeah, it’s not over. The journey goes on."
Falcons owner Arthur Blank took note of Bryant’s team-record 1,122 points and his honour of being named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013 and 2014. Blank said in a team statement Bryant "will be remembered as one of the greatest Falcons of all time."
Blank said Bryant "made countless memorable and game-winning kicks. His reliability and dependability were unmatched and he has been unflappable in pressure-filled moments."
Bryant set a team record with 158 points in the Falcons’ 2016 Super Bowl season.
Giorgio Tavecchio was signed when Bryant was injured and was kept on the active roster for the remainder of the season in a move that could have been a hint of the plan to release Bryant.
Tavecchio, 28, could be the starter in 2019 after making each of his five field goal attempts, including a 56-yarder, this season.
The team’s release of Bryant comes one day after it cut another veteran, cornerback Robert Alford. The release of Alford will clear $7.9 million in cap space for the 2019 season. The Bryant move clears $2.8 million in cap space.
"There is no doubt he is one of the all-time great Falcons as he’s been an integral part of our success," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "This was a difficult decision but one that was necessary for us to move forward into 2019. We have the utmost respect for the person and the player that Matt is, and we wish (him) and his family the best going forward."