Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that long-time Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking has signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
Brooking first joined the Falcons as a first round pick in 1998, and has since been a fixture on the team’s defense. In eleven seasons with the Falcons, Brooking went to five Pro Bowls. During his Falcon career, Brooking played multiple positions playing inside and outside linebacker for the team. This past season, Brooking led the Falcons in tackles with 102. For his career, he started 146 games, recording 1,132 tackles, 17 sacks, and 12 interceptions.
Brooking last went to the Pro Bowl in 2005, and his play has noticeably declined since then. Unfortunately, the last memory of Brooking in a Falcons uniform perhaps will be the blown coverage on a key third down late in the Falcons playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. That play essentially sealed the Falcons loss, and the writing has been on the wall ever since that Brooking could be gone.
In Dallas, Brooking will re-join Wade Phillips. Phillips, now the Cowboys head coach served as the Falcons defensive coordinator from 2002-03.
The Falcons have now lost both starting outside linebackers with Michael Boley signing with the New York Giants earlier today.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that Michael Boley has signed with the New York Giants, making him the second Falcon free agent lost this off-season after Domonique Foxworth signed with the Baltimore Ravens yesterday. Per Vacchiano, Boley has agreed to a five-year contract worth $25 million with $10 million guaranteed. Earlier reports indicated that the Giants were finalizing a contract with Boley since last night after he visited the team on Friday, the first day of free agency.
Boley was not expected to return to the Falcons after a down 2008 season. Boley finished this past year with 72 tackles, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2005. Boley was benched for the final month of the season, working almost exclusively on passing downs. In 2006 and 2007, Boley was a regular playmaker combining for 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. This past season, he had no sacks, 1 interception, no forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.
Reports indicate that Boley never quite meshed well with the scheme introduced by head coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Boley also may have had distractions looming from an off-field incident occurring last May.
Adam Caplan of Scout.com reports that a league source indicated that free agent tight end L.J. Smith has drawn interest from the Falcons. Smith has played with the Philadelphia Eagles the past six seasons. The Falcons are expected to be looking at upgrading the tight end position this off-season with a player that can have a greater impact in the passing game. The team showed interest in some of the top tight end prospects in the Combine last week.
This past season, Smith caught 37 passes for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns in 12 games. He has missed 10 games the past two seasons with the Eagles. He had his best two years with the Eagles in 2005 and 2006, catching a total of 111 passes for 1,293 yards and 8 touchdowns.
UPDATE: National Football Post reports that the Falcons are close to signing Smith, according to one of their reliable sources.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports
that the Falcons have re-signed three of their upcoming free agents. The Falcons have agreed to terms with tight end Justin Peelle, defensive tackle Jason Jefferson, and linebacker Coy Wire.
Also the Falcons extended the second round tender to restricted free agent guard Harvey Dahl. Center Ben Wilkerson also a restricted free agent has agreed to return. There has been no word on Jamaal Fudge, the team’s remaining restricted free agent and whether the Falcons intend to retain him.
Wire agreed to a two-year contract. The terms of the other players’ deals were unknown. Along with Peelle and Jefferson he was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.
The AP reports that quarterback Michael Vick has been cleared to be released to home confinement. Vick is approaching the final months of his 23-month prison sentence from 2007.
The AP cites an anonymous official with knowledge of the case that says Vick will be released to home confinement instead of a halfway house due to the lack of bed space. Per the official, Vick could be going home to his residence in Hampton, Virginia as soon as May 21. Currently, his prison sentence is set to expire in July. While at home, he will be electronically monitored and only allowed to leave his home with approval of a probation officer.
FalconInsider.com reports that the Falcons have tendered restricted free agent Tyson Clabo with a second round pick. Clabo will earn $1.545 million this year in salary. If another team attempts to sign him this off-season, the Falcons have the right to match the offer in order to keep him or will receive a second round pick as compensation if they choose not to.
Clabo started 16 games this past year at right tackle. He has started 37 games in the past three seasons for the Falcons after joining the team’s practice squad in 2005. He was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Wake Forest in 2004 with the Denver Broncos. He has started at left guard, right guard, and right tackle in his Falcon career.
The Falcons have three other restricted free agents, and today is the deadline for teams to extend tenders to them. Guard Harvey Dahl, safety Jamaal Fudge, and center Ben Wilkerson are the other RFAs.
There are four levels for restricted free agents. The highest level carries compensation of first and third round picks and a $2.792 million salary. The second highest level has compensation of a first round pick and a $2.198 million salary. The next level is the second round tender that Clabo received. The lowest level carries a salary of $1.01 million, and has the compensation of the round in which the player was originally selected. Since all four of the Falcons restricted free agents were not drafted, they will get no compensation if they are tendered at the lowest level. If the Falcons do not tender them at all, they become unrestricted free agents and are free to sign with any team.
Scout.com also reports
that the Falcons have opted not to extend a tender to exclusive rights free agent offensive tackle Pat McCoy, making him an unrestricted free agent. Unlike restricted free agents, exclusive rights free agents are tendered based off experience and given the minimum salary determined by the number of years they have been in the league.
The Falcons other exclusive rights free agents are: tackle Renardo Foster, cornerback Brent Grimes, safety Antoine Harris, and running back Jason Snelling. The Falcons will also need to tender them as well since the free agent signing period begins tonight at midnight.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons and free agent safety Lawyer Milloy have come to a mutual agreement to part ways. The Falcons will allow Milloy to test the open market when the free agent signing period begins on February 27.
Per the AJC, Falcons official and Milloy’s agent Todd France met during the Scouting Combine, currently taking place in Indianapolis. Per France, it was agreed that it’s in Milloy’s “best interest to explore other opportunities.”
Milloy joined the Falcons in 2006 after ten years playing with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. This past year Milloy had 92 tackles and 1 interception. He turns 36 in November.
Dimitroff reiterated the notion that the Falcons will take a much stronger interest in the draft than free agency at the safety position, similar to statements he made the other day about prospective free agent Albert Haynesworth. Per the AJC, the Falcons have taken a keen interest in some safeties already at the Combine.
The AJC reports that Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has indicated that the Falcons will not be “major players” in free agency this year, and thusly will not be pursuing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
Free agency kicks off on February 27, and it was thought in some circles that the Falcons would be among the chief suitors for Haynesworth, who many consider the top defensive tackle in the league and the top free agent available this spring. But Dimitroff’s statements Friday morning during the Combine indicated that the Falcons won’t be in the market for not only Haynesworth’s services, but also other top free agents as well. Dimitroff said that the team’s aim is to re-focus on building via the draft.
In other Falcon related free agent news, ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas reports
that the return of cornerback Domonique Foxworth is iffy at this point. Foxworth is set to be a free agent, but it is believed that he will seek to test the market come February 27 in order to maximize his contract.
Contrasting a previous report that Keith Brooking’s return to Atlanta was doubtful, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that re-signing the longtime Falcon linebacker appears to be a top priority for the organization. Brooking is set to hit the free agent market on February 27. Another report indicated that the Falcons could release Brooking prior to that date, but it is believed that Brooking’s contract will void making releasing him unnecessary.
Per Ledbetter, the Falcons are currently in the process of re-signing some of their free agents, and it appears that Brooking is among them.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons have conducted interviews already at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with two top tight end prospects and an offensive lineman. The two tight ends are Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew and South Carolina’s Jared Cook. The offensive lineman is Georgia Tech tackle Andrew Gardner.
The Falcons have been looking to upgrade their tight end position for some time, even making an attempt to acquire Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez back in October according to the Wisconsin State Journal
. Combined last year, the team’s top two tight ends Justin Peelle and Ben Hartsock combined for 18 catches. Peelle is a free agent and both players are known primarily as blockers.
Pettigrew caught 42 passes last year at Oklahoma State. He is widely considered the top tight end in this year’s draft class and is billed as a first round pick, making him a possibility for the Falcons with their top selection (24th overall).
Cook is one of the better tight ends in the class as well and most indicate him as a potential second round target. He caught 37 passes this past year with the Gamecocks.
Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com
has Pettigrew and Cook billed as the No. 1 and No. 2 tight end prospects, respectively, in this year’s draft.
Gardner was a four-year starter at left tackle for the Yellow Jackets. He suffered a shoulder injury this past October, and missed the rest of the season. He is rated as the 19th best offensive tackle in the class by Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com.