D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Falcons have signed Arizona Cardinals cornerback and return specialist Javier Arenas to a one-year deal.
Arenas is the third addition made by the Falcons this offseason that was formerly drafted by new assistant GM Scott Pioli during his tenure in Kansas City. Arenas was selected with the second-round pick in 2010 that the Falcons traded to the Chiefs in 2009 in exchange for tight end Tony Gonzalez.
In three years with the Chiefs, Arenas played primarily as the team’s nickel/slot cornerback. He started 12 of 47 games, recording 146 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, and 22 pass deflections in that span. During that time, he served as the team’s punt and kickoff returner too. He averaged 9.8 yards per return on 105 punt returns. He averaged 21.1 yards on 51 kickoff returns. He failed to score a touchdown during his time in Kansas City.
He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals last year in exchange for fullback Anthony Sherman. He finished with 12 tackles and a sack in 16 games as a reserve cornerback. He did not return punts, but returned 23 kickoffs for an average of 21.4 yards.
Arenas was a prolific returner during his time at Alabama, averaging 14 yards per punt return and scoring seven times during his four-year career there. He is the SEC’s all-time leader in punt returns (125), punt return yards (1,752) and punt return touchdowns (7). He earned All-American and All-SEC honors as a senior.
The Falcons had been looking at return specialists over the weekend, with Trindon Holliday visiting on Friday, while Devin Hester visited the team earlier today. Arenas has the potential to replace Robert McClain and Harry Douglas on punt returns, along with Jacquizz Rodgers on kickoff returns.
One young Panthers fan did not react well to news of Steve Smith’s departure from Carolina. I understand your pain, young man. I’m a Falcon fan and I felt the same.
Not only did the team make several new additions to the roster but the Atlanta Falcons also parted ways with some long-time veterans on Tuesday to start free agency. The team announced that tight end Tony Gonzalez and safety Thomas DeCoud were officially released, moves that were long expected to be made.
Gonzalez had announced his intentions to retire prior to last season and had made good on those plans this offseason when he was hired by CBS Sports to become an in-studio analyst for the network this fall. But because he had not yet filed his retirement papers, the Falcons were forced to cut him in lieu of paying him an option bonus this week.
DeCoud’s impending release had been reported two weeks ago due to a portion of his salary becoming guaranteed if he was on the roster as of March 15. DeCoud was drafted by the Falcons in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and became a regular starter at free safety the following season. He managed to start 78 games over five seasons with the Falcons, collecting 14 interceptions. He earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2012 with a team-high six interceptions, which was also the second-most among safeties in the NFL that year. But DeCoud’s play took a notable dip last season. Premium website Pro Football Focus rated him as the 83rd best safety in the league last season out of 86 players graded.
The official opening of free agency started with a bang for the Atlanta Falcons who brought in three additions and re-signed another to bolster their offensive and defensive lines. The Falcons added offensive guard Jon Asamoah and defensive end Tyson Jackson, both formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, along with ex-Miami Dolphin defensive tackle Paul Soliai, and re-signed center Joe Hawley.
The influence of new assistant general manager Scott Pioli was apparent with the team’s decision to sign Asamoah and Jackson. They were both drafted by Pioli during his time in Kansas City as general manager.
Asamoah signed a five-year contract worth $22.5 million, and had been rumored to be a favored target by the Falcons during the “legal tampering” period prior to Tuesday’s start of free agency. He served as the Chiefs starting right guard for most of the past three seasons, starting a combined 41 games, and will presumably play the same role in Atlanta.
Jackson was Pioli’s first-ever draft selection in Kansas City, originally selected as the third overall selection in 2009. The underwhelming start of his career earned him the “bust” label, but his improved play this past season allowed him to shed that distinction. Jackson started 45 games over five seasons with the Chiefs, with improved production the past two years as he combined for 77 tackles and seven sacks. He signed a five-year deal worth $25 million and will likely play defensive end, replacing free agent Peria Jerry in the starting lineup.
Rather than Pioli, Soliai owes his Falcon benefactor to be defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Soliai and Nolan along with current defensive line coach Bryan Cox spent time together in Miami in 2010-11. He was another player that was linked to the Falcons prior to signing with the team. He spent seven seasons in Miami, starting the past four at nose tackle in their predominantly 3-4 defense. Soliai landed a five-year contract worth $33 million.
Hawley joins Jonathan Babineaux, Mike Johnson and Corey Peters as current Falcons that were re-signed. He signed a two-year deal worth $6 million to stay with the team. Hawley started the final seven games at center last year as a replacement for an underachieving Peter Konz.
Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cites sources that indicate the Atlanta Falcons are “extremely close” to agreeing on a three-year contract with free agent defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.
UPDATE: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Falcons have agreed to terms with Babineaux on a three-year deal. The Falcons have now confirmed it.
Babineaux was originally a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2005 and became a regular starter for the team in the second half of the 2007 season after the release of Grady Jackson. He has not relinquished the job since, logging 108 starts over the course of his nine-year career in Atlanta. He has collected 23.5 sacks during his career, but is coming off a 2013 campaign where he had just one sack and 42 tackles. Babineaux will turn 33 in October.
If re-signed it will mark the third contract that Babineaux has earned with the Falcons. His second contract occurred in November 2008 when his initial rookie contract was on the verge of expiring. If the Falcons are successful in signing Babineaux before today’s 4 p.m. start for the new league year, it will mean that Babineaux will have never tested free agency during his NFL career, a sign of his perceived high value by the Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons announced today that guard Mike Johnson had agreed to a one-year extension. Johnson’s rookie contract had expired at the end of the 2013 season and he was set to hit unrestricted free agency tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern. Johnson missed all of the 2013 season with a dislocated ankle and broken leg that he suffered early in training camp. Terms of his deal were undisclosed.
Johnson was poised to start at right tackle this past season until he was sidelined with the injury. He was initially a third-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2010 out of Alabama and was slated to play guard. He was inactive for every game as a rookie and spent the bulk of the 2011 season on injured reserve. He then moved to right tackle in 2012, and spent that season playing primarily as the team’s sixth offensive lineman and blocking tight end. In four seasons, Johnson has logged just one start and 18 total appearances. His return adds valuable depth and a potential competitor for a starting position at right guard or right tackle for the Falcons.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted today that the Atlanta Falcons are “very aggressively pursuing” Miami Dolphins nose tackle Paul Soliai. La Canfora’s report comes in regard to today’s earlier news of defensive assistant Mark Collins’ promotion which has prompted the belief that Falcons will making a switch to the 3-4 as their base defense.
Soliai played under Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for the two years they shared together in Miami (2010-11) before the latter’s arrival in Atlanta. Soliai just turned 30 at the end of this past season, his seventh in Miami. He has served as a regular starter since Nolan’s arrival in 2010, combining for 129 tackles and 4.5 sacks over that span. He served as a Pro Bowl injury replacement in 2012.
Soliai initially was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round in 2007 and was a backup to Jason Ferguson for the early part of his career.
Picking up on the previous report that the Atlanta Falcons had hired a brand new defensive assistant in Andrew Thacker, Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that the team is promoting current defensive assistant Mark Collins to outside linebackers coach.
Collins first joined the Falcons in 2010, spending the bulk of his time assisting defensive line coach Ray Hamilton. Prior to his time in Atlanta, Collins spent several years as an assistant at various colleges. He worked under Falcons previous defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder at Georgia Southern in 2006. He spent two years following that as a graduate assistant at Georgia, before coaching safeties at Louisiana-Monroe. He was then hired by The Citadel as that team’s defensive coordinator before changing his mind and joining the Falcons.
Collins’ past has seen him working with several different elements of defenses, having spent time coaching linebackers, defensive linemen, safeties and special teams during his decade of coaching in the college ranks. Collins went to East Tennessee State and upon graduation in 1999 began his coaching career as a defensive assistant.
Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cites unknown league sources that the Atlanta Falcons are “extremely interested” in Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah, an impending free agent.
While the official start of free agency begins Tuesday afternoon, teams are currently allowed to legally “tamper” by talking with potential free agents until then. No reports yet on whether Asamoah and the Falcons are actively discussing a contract. But the Falcons are not alone in their reported interest in Asamoah, as reports surfaced early Saturday that the New York Jets were another team that intended to make a play for him.
Asamoah is considered one of the premier guards potentially available in free agency, along with teammate Geoff Schwartz. However, Asamoah lost his starting job to Schwartz last season thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 11. Asamoah missed the Chiefs’ season-opener with a calf injury, but started the next nine games at right guard before being sidelined and sitting the bench for the final six games.
Prior to last year, Asamoah started a combined 31 games at right guard in 2011 and 2012. He was originally a third-round pick by the Chiefs out of Illinois in 2010.
You can check out my assessment of Asamoah’s strengths, weaknesses and how he potentially fits in Atlanta.
Publishing weekly round-ups dealing with various Atlanta Falcons news was a regular event during the abyss known as 2011 NFL Lockout. Since then, I haven’t had much need for them but I figure that it is time to dust them off this offseason.
Partially because my day job has me traveling a lot during the week which limits the number of timely updates and posts I can have during the week involving Falcons-related items. So they will be partially house-cleaning for any stories I may not have written during the week.
I will also aggregate some articles, both Falcons-related and not, that I think are worthy of views that were posted during the past week.
The Falcons are actively working on retaining some of their own free agents including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Joe Hawley, and guard Mike Johnson according to reports.
Rounding up news involving Falcons free agents is that defensive tackle Peria Jerry is also unlikely to be retained, prompting some celebration.
North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron joins the list of potential draft picks being openly in favor of playing for the Falcons. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney previously voiced his favor for Atlanta as a potential landing zone. Here’s what Ebron had to say:
I would love to play for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan – I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.