SUWANEE, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons reached the 49-player NFL limit Monday when they waived former starters Mike Zele, Bo Robinson and Jeff Yeates, traded rookie cornerback Rodney McSwain and placed two others on injured reserve.
Atlanta coach Dan Henning said waiving Yeates, who had been with the Falcons 11 years, was 'the most difficult' move of the day.
Yates had been expected to have a hard time making the Falcons this year because of a number of younger, healthier defensive linemen in camp.
The 6-foot, 257-pound defensive end has undergone three knee and two shoulder operations during his career.
Yates took the decision gracefully, saying: 'I've played 11 years, which is 11 years more than I thought I'd play.'
'Yeates was the most difficult of all these players today, because he works hard and displays a determiation and desire for the game that you like to have,' said Henning.
The Falcons traded McSwain, a third-round pick from Clemson, was traded to the New England Patriots for a future draft choice.
Yeates, a 13-year veteran defensive end; Robinson, an H-back; Zele, a defensive tackle; reserve linebacker Dave Levenick and free agent running back Tim Tyrrell were all waived.
Tight end Ben Young, who has a groin injury and reserve cornerback Earl Jones, a knee ailment, were placed on injured reserve.
Robinson started nine games at H-back last season after recovering from a factured arm in training camp. His departure leaves rookie Cliff Benson, a fifth-round draft choice from Purdue, as the No. 1 H-back. Robinson was in his sixth year with the Falcons.
Zele started the first four games last season before injuring a knee. He became expendable with the addition of Gary Burley in a trade last week with Cincinnati. Zele had been bothered by injuries during training camp.
Yeates started all 16 games last season but found himself in a backup role this year with the move of Don Smith to defensive end.
In moves Sunday, the Falcons traded tight end Junior Miller to the New Orleans Saints for a future draft choice and sent offensive lineman Ron Lee and a future draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for cornerback Gerald Small.
The Falcons also waived offensive tackle Glenn Howe and linebacker Kirk Dodge.