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Falcons Hire Defensive Assistant

March 8th, 2014 Comments off

Jason Munz of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the Atlanta Falcons have hired former Southern Mississippi assistant coach Andrew Thacker as a defensive assistant.

Thacker spent one season on the Golden Eagles staff after three seasons as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State. There he worked with the team’s linebackers. He also spent two years as a graduate assistatnt at Central Florida following his playing career as a safety at Furman.

During his time at Furman, Thacker earned All-Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll all four seasons. He finished his career with 43 starts at both free and strong safety, tallying 254 career tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick. He also ran track at Furman as a member of the school’s 4×100 meter relay team.

Thacker, 28, is a native of Cumming, GA.

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Jason Snelling Hangs It Up

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

AP Photo/Phil Coale

Jason Snelling

The Atlanta Falcons announced this evening that running back Jason Snelling has opted to retire from the NFL after seven seasons as a pro. Snelling spent the entirety of his career with the Falcons after being a seventh-round pick in 2007. Only fellow ’07 draft selection Justin Blalock along with 2005 selections Jonathan Babineaux and Roddy White have longer tenures with the team.

Snelling turned 30 this past December, finishing a career in which he appeared in 96 games with six starts. His career marks of 363 carries and 1,420 rushing yards ranks 19th and 20th, respectively, on the team’s all-time list. He also caught 168 passes for 1,249 yards, and combined for 17 total touchdowns during his career.

Snelling played both running back and fullback during his time in Atlanta, serving as an injury fill-in at both positions throughout his career. His best season came in 2009 when he replaced an injured Michael Turner as the team’s lead rusher for the final six games. He finished that season with a career-high 613 rushing yards.

A notable special teams player as well, Snelling recorded 39 stops over his career in that capacity and led the team with 18 special teams tackles in 2008.

Snelling dealing with the possibility of life after football was hinted when he decided not to travel with the team for an away game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an arrest in November. Snelling cited personal issues as the reason for his absence at the time.

He was entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed in 2012. His retirement frees up $1.375 million in 2014 salary cap space per Over the Cap.

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Peters Re-Ups for One Year

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that defensive tackle Corey Peters agreed to a one-year contract. Peters was an impending free agent, as the period where players can officially join new teams begins a week from today. Per Scott Carasik of Draft Falcons, Peters’ deal is worth $1.5 million minus playing-time incentives.

Originally a third-round pick out of Kentucky by the Falcons in 2010, Peters has been a regular starter since joining the team. He is coming off his most productive season, tallying career-highs of 46 tackles and five sacks. Peters suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the end of this past season however, limiting his potential market. He had successful surgery in January and is currently in a walking boot for a few more weeks.

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Falcons cut Garrett Reynolds

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Garrett Reynolds

The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier this evening that guard Garrett Reynolds was released from the team. Reynolds’ departure was expected given his finishing the 2013 season on the team’s inactive list coupled with the recent signing of Gabe Carimi, who potentially fills the same niche. Per Over the Cap.com, Reynolds’ release frees up nearly $1.4 million in cap space for the Falcons in 2014.

Reynolds started the first nine games of 2013 at right guard, but was benched in Week 11 when the team inserted center Joe Hawley into the lineup and moved Peter Konz from center to right guard. But Konz performed poorly early in that game, and Reynolds finished the game at right guard. He would resume his starting position the following week against the New Orleans Saints, but would not finish that game due to his own struggles. He was reduced to a backup role with hardly any playing time for the next four games, before being inactive in the team’s season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

Reynolds was originally a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of North Carolina in 2009. He spent his first two seasons as a backup to right guard Harvey Dahl, before getting first crack at replacing him in 2011. But he was benched after making seven starts that year in favor of Hawley, who finished the season as the starter. Reynolds would again resume the starting position in 2012, making six starts before injuries sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He was then replaced by Konz for the rest of the season.

The Falcons have had a revolving door at the right guard position since the departure of Dahl before the 2011 season. That has been partly due to the fact that Reynolds has not shown the consistency to hold the position long-term. However, Reynolds did make steady progress each year. Per the site Pro Football Focus, he graded out better each subsequent year as a starter finishing with a career-best +2.8 grade this year. That grade rated second-best on the Falcons behind left guard Justin Blalock in 2013.

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Falcons Add OL Carimi

February 17th, 2014 Comments off

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gabe Carimi

The Atlanta Falcons announced the signing of free agent offensive lineman Gabe Carimi today. Carimi was recently released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was traded to the Buccaneers last June after two unsuccessful seasons with the Chicago Bears, where he was coached by new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice. Per multiple reports, Carimi signed a one-year deal.

Carimi was the Bears’ top selection in the 2011 out of Wisconsin, and according to Michael Holley’s book The War Room, would have been the likeliest target of the Falcons had they not opted instead to trade up for wide receiver Julio Jones. Carimi suffered through an injury-plagued rookie season with the Bears, starting just two games before landing on injured reserve. He returned in 2012 to start the first 10 games at right tackle before poor performances led to his being benched. He would be re-inserted into the starting lineup two weeks later as an injury replacement for right guard Lance Louis, and started three games there where he fared better. He would start one more game at right tackle before the season was done. However, when the Bears fired their coaching staff following 2012, the new regime decided to trade him after making several moves in the offseason to upgrade their offensive line.

This past year for the Buccaneers, he started the first two games of the regular season at left guard as an injury replacement for Carl Nicks. Nicks returned to the lineup for two games before his season was finally over. Instead of putting Carimi back into the lineup as a starter, the Buccaneers decided to shuffle around their offensive line, putting center Jeremy Zuttah at left guard and backup Ted Larsen at center. Eventually, the Bucs settled on Jamon Meredith at left guard, with Carimi serving out the remainder of the 2013 season as a sixth offensive lineman and tight end.

Carimi could potentially help the Falcons at multiple positions, but will likely be asked to play either right guard or right tackle in Atlanta. Click here to read a scouting report on Carimi from 2011.

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Falcons Add OL Coach Harman to Staff

February 7th, 2014 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Atlanta Falcons have hired Wade Harman, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, to their coaching staff as the assistant offensive line coach. At the end of the 2013 regular season the Falcons fired both offensive line coaches in Pat Hill and Paul Dunn, and hired Mike Tice to coach the unit.

Harman previously served as the Ravens tight end coach for the past 15 years, being an original hire of former Ravens head coach Brian Billick in 1999 alongside current Falcons head coach Mike Smith. During his tenure in Baltimore, Harman coached the likes of Shannon Sharpe, Todd Heap, and Dennis Pitta. Prior to joining the Ravens, Harman worked with Tice as a coaching assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings (1997-98). Before his stint in Minnesota, Harman was an assistant coach on the college level for a decade. He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant with his alma mater Utah State in 1987. Harman played linebacker at Utah State after starting his college playing career at Drake.

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Falcons Release Nicholas and Samuel

February 5th, 2014 Comments off
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Stephen Nicholas

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports cites sources that the Atlanta Falcons have released linebacker Stephen Nicholas and cornerback Asante Samuel today. Marvez’s report was subsequently confirmed by the team. NFL teams were allowed to begin releasing players starting this past Monday, and the release of veterans such as Nicholas and Samuel had long been expected. Nicholas was on the roster bubble since last summer’s training camp, while Samuel’s exit seemed inevitable once the team opted to bench him at the end of the 2013 season.

Per figures at OverTheCap.com, the combined release of both players frees up over $6 million in cap space for the Falcons. Nicholas was set to count $4 million against the Falcons’ 2014 cap, and frees up $2 million in cap savings. Samuel was set to count nearly $5 million against the 2014 cap, and his release frees up roughly $4.2 million.

Nicholas first joined the Falcons as a fourth-round draft pick in 2007. He was a reserve with the team his first two seasons before assuming the starting strong-side linebacker position in 2009. He would maintain that grip on the starting position through the 2012 season, before losing it this past year. For his career, Nicholas appeared in 101 games, starting 50 of them. He also recorded 329 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles over the course of his Falcon career.

Samuel was traded to the Falcons from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 in exchange of a seventh-round draft pick. Samuel started 25 games over the course of two seasons with the Falcons, missing some time due to injury. During that span, he recorded 66 tackles, 6 interceptions and 22 pass deflections. Samuel came to the Falcons after playing four seasons with the Eagles and five seasons with the New England Patriots. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in 2003, Samuel would earn four Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl titles over the course of his 11-year career. His 51 career interceptions currently rank fourth among active NFL players on the all-time list. For his career, Samuel also has 437 tackles, 145 pass deflections, and six pick-sixes.

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Ex-Falcon Claude Humphrey Elected to Hall of Fame

February 2nd, 2014 Comments off
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Claude Humphrey

Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey will become the second Falcon player to earn the distinction of being a Hall of Famer, as the league announced that Humphrey is part of the 2014 class of players to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Humphrey joins cornerback Deion Sanders, who was inducted in 2011, as the only pair of former Falcon players to earn a bust in Canton.

Humphrey joins fellow defensive end and former New York Giant Michael Strahan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders punter Ray Guy, Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Reed, and Arizona Cardinals/St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams as part of the 2014 class. Humphrey is alongside Guy as the two members elected by the senior committee

Humphrey was a first-round pick by the Falcons in 1968 out of Tennessee State. He made an impact right away, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In 1970, he earned the first of six trips to the Pro Bowl, and the following year earned his first of five first-team All Pro honors. Despite individual success, Humphrey did not find the team success he was looking for and promptly retired after the 1978 season. Up until then, he had only been on two Falcon teams in eleven years that finished the year with a winning record. But following his retirement, Humphrey was convinced to reenter the league and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles where he played the final three seasons of his career before permanently retiring after 1981. Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982, but Humphrey is credited with 122 career sacks. 94.5 of those came in a Falcon uniform, which still stands as the team’s all-time benchmark.

I mused on Humphrey’s chances of getting into the Hall several years ago, projecting that he might get voted in circa 2013. A lucky guess on my part.

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Team Needs: Re-signing Hawley Key at Center

February 1st, 2014 Comments off

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Hawley

Unlike most of the positions along the offensive line, at center, the Atlanta Falcons can say that time healed some wounds in 2013.

That elixir came in the form of Joe Hawley, who assumed the starting spot at center in Week 11. While Hawley was by no means outstanding in that role, he proved to be an immediate upgrade over Peter Konz, who had struggled throughout 2013. Konz moved to right guard, where he did not fare any better.

Hawley is now an impending free agent, but one that the Falcons are likely to re-sign. His market isn’t expected to be huge given his limited experience at center. Prior to starting the final seven games in 2013 at the position, he had logged just three starts at center in three previous years in Atlanta, all coming as injury fill-in for Todd McClure in 2011.

Despite Hawley’s solid play at the position this past season, it doesn’t mean he’s entrenched there. His lack of experience makes him a somewhat unknown commodity moving forward. Essentially, his play in 2013 only gives him the leg up in any competition and means it should be considered his job to lose in 2014. But the Falcons shouldn’t be thinking that seven games is enough to give Hawley a lucrative, long-term deal, a mistake they’ve made too often in recent years based off limited sample sizes.

If the team does manage to successfully re-sign Hawley to a modest contract, it’s possible he could be in for a camp competition with Konz this summer. The chances of Konz returning to center increase if the Falcons are able to add a potential starter to replace him at right guard.

Were that to happen, it would be reasonable to believe that the competition between the two would likely produce a competent or possibly good long-term option. The team also has Harland Gunn on the roster, who has experience playing center and has a similar skillset as Hawley.

The Falcons could also opt to add other players this offseason, particularly if Hawley finds a way to depart via free agency. If that were to occur, adding a veteran on the open market would make the most sense given Konz has done little to merit the team’s optimism and faith.

Even if Hawley is retained, the team could still seek to bolster the position in the draft with a developmental player in the latter rounds.

But the key remains re-signing Hawley, as letting him walk would open up a can of worms. And given the team’s needs at other positions along the offensive line, that’s a can best left alone.

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Team Needs: Falcons Must Expand Options at Right Guard

February 1st, 2014 Comments off

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Reynolds and Peter Konz are on the outs

Unlike the offensive tackle position, it is not safe to say the Atlanta Falcons roster currently features both starters at guard. While left guard Justin Blalock is coming off arguably his best season and is a lock to return as a starter in 2014, right guard remains wide open.

Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds split the majority of snaps there in 2013, neither performing at a high level. Reynolds started the season well, but as things wore on he became less effective. When Konz was benched at center in favor of Joe Hawley in Week 11, the bottom seemed to fall out for Reynolds, who logged significant reps in just two more games before finding a permanent seat on the bench. He was inactive for the Falcons final game of the year, a significant drop from being the team’s second-best blocker on opening day.

Reynolds’ star may have fallen so much that he may find himself unemployed this offseason. The Falcons could free up close to $1.4 million (per Over The Cap.com) in cap space by releasing Reynolds. Reynolds got his first opportunity to run away with the starting right guard position in 2011 and then again in 2012. But both years were marred by inconsistent play and injuries. Ostensibly, 2013 represented his third strike and the Falcons could opt to move on this offseason given the moderate cap savings.

Konz replaced Reynolds and got the majority of those reps at right guard down the stretch, but did little with them as he looked like a liability for much of it. By year’s end, I was ready to give up on Konz after just two seasons but it doesn’t appear the Falcons share that mindset.

Read more…

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