UPDATE: Jason La Canfora reports that the Falcons have agreed to terms with Hayden.
Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reports that free agent cornerback Kelvin Hayden visited the Falcons on Tuesday and could be on the verge of signing with them today.
Hayden was released by the Colts at the end of the lockout before camps opened up. He suffered a neck injury late last season, missing five games, and finished the year on the injured reserve. Reports indicate that he is back to full strength. He was cut by the Colts due to a high cap number (roughly $9 million) this season. Hayden has worked out with several teams including the Redskins, Bears, Chiefs, and Vikings over the past month, but has yet to finding a landing spot.
Hayden played six seasons for the Colts, including the last four as their starting cornerback. Prior to 2009, he signed a big extension with the Colts, but failed to live up to expectations after that point, in part due to injuries. He missed a combined 18 games over the past three seasons. His most productive years came in 2007 and 2008, where he combined for 125 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 22 passes defended. Last season in 11 games, he recorded 61 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 8 passes defended.
Questions have been raised about whether the Falcons young pair of corners: Dominique Franks and Chris Owens are going to be able to handle nickel duties this season after a lackluster preseason for both parties.
The Falcons could receive future salary cap credits from the $6.5 million that former quarterback Michael Vick still owes them according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Such credits are reviewed on a case-by-case basis according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, and whether or not the Falcons can get some added cap relief is under review by the league.
Vick signed a six-year $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and owes creditors more than $20 million stemming from unpaid debts due to his 2007 incarceration. According to CNBC’s Darren Rovell those debts are expected to be paid in full by 2014 thanks to the money from Vick’s new contract.
In 2009, the Falcons sought to reclaim close to $20 million in bonus money paid to Vick from a previous contract paid in 2004 that exceeded $100 million. But a bankruptcy court ruled that Vick would only owe $6.5 million.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that free agent safety James Sanders agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons today. Sanders visited and worked out for the Falcons earlier today, after being cut by the New England Patriots on Monday.
Sanders is a six-year veteran that served off and on as a starter for the Patriots since being drafted by them in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Fresno State. He has played both free and strong safety in the past. He played the former position primarily when the Patriots had Rodney Harrison at strong safety, and then moved to strong safety in recent years with the introduction of Brandon Meriweather to the lineup. He split time with Patrick Chung at the strong safety position last season. He started 9 games, finishing with 56 tackles and 3 interceptions. Sanders also has produced on special teams, tallying 30 career tackles over his career in New England.
The Falcons announced the release of six players today to get their roster number down to 79 players. Instead of that extra spot being filled by safety James Sanders, the team opted to sign center Brett Romberg in the wake of the news that starting center Todd McClure is out for at least the season opener.
Romberg has been out of football since being cut by the Falcons last September. Romberg joined the Falcons prior to the 2009 season and played in 9 games that year as the backup to McClure. His experience in the system allows him to provide valuable depth at the center position and another option if the Falcons deem Hawley incapable of replacing McClure.
Romberg originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003. There he was coached by current Falcons O-line coach Paul Boudreau. When Boudreau was hired by the St. Louis Rams in 2006, Romberg followed his coach there. With the Rams, Romberg started 18 of 33 games for the Rams at center over the next three years before following Boudreau to Atlanta in 2009.
Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) will not appear in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicates that the teams starters will get a reduced a role in that contest, but Robinson will not be among them. Chris Owens has started in Robinson’s stead the past two preseason contests as he’s been nursing that injured hamstring.
Also out will be Todd McClure (knee), Corey Peters (knee), and Lawrence Sidbury (ankle). Earlier today, it was announced that McClure would be out at least through the first game of the regular season. Peters was injured in the Falcons first preseason contest and has been ruled out indefinitely. Sidbury’s injury will make his ability to retain a roster spot difficult since it appears that rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews is emerging as the team’s potential fifth defensive end.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons have released running back Philip Sylvester and linebacker LaMarcus Thompson. Ledbetter also reports that the following players were not at practice today: Wide receivers Doug Beaumont and Tim Buckley, cornerback Kirk Belgrave, and linebacker Youri Yenga. However it has not been confirmed that those players were release, it is likely. The Falcons needed to cut five players today by 4:00 pm to get down to the 80-man roster limit, but if the team manages to sign visiting safety James Sanders today, a sixth release would be required.
All of the players except Buckley were undrafted rookies signed by the Falcons at the beginning of camp this summer. Buckley was an undrafted rookie signed by the Falcons in 2010, and spent the year on the team’s practice squad last fall.
UPDATE: Knox Bardeen of CBS Sports reports that the Falcons have released the six players reported above.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith ruledthat center Todd McClure was out for the team’s regular season opener against the Chicago Bears today, following knee surgery on Monday. That likely means that the Falcons will turn to Joe Hawley as his replacement. Hawley is McClure’s top backup, and was drafted by the team last year in the fourth round as the heir apparent to McClure, who’s contract expires at the end of this season.
While the Falcons have not yet named Hawley the official starter, it is likely that he will earn the spot since he replaced him in past instances where McClure exited games due to injury, including last Saturday’s outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But with McClure out for at least the season opener, it also increases the chances that Rob Bruggeman makes the Falcons opening day roster for the second year in a row. Bruggeman has worked as the team’s third string center throughout camp and preseason. Last season, he made the team’s opening day roster, but was subsequently cut the following week and spent the remainder of the season on the practice squad. Bruggeman also spent time on the Falcons practice squad during the 2009 season.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Falcons will meet with free agent safety James Sanders on Tuesday. Sanders was released by the New England Patriots earlier today.
Sanders is well-known to Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, who was in New England when that team drafted Sanders in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. In his six seasons with the Patriots, Sanders provided valuable depth for the Patriots at both free and strong safety in the past. He served as the team’s starting free safety in 2007 and 2008, before being reduced to a part-time role the past two seasons when the Patriots used a second round pick on Patrick Chung in the 2009 draft. He has played both free and strong safety in the past for the Patriots. For his career, Sanders has started 50 games, recorded 279 tackles and picked off 8 passes.
If the Falcons sign Sanders, it will likely be to add depth at either safety positions where he can work as the top reserve behind both Thomas DeCoud and William Moore. Currently, Shann Schillinger and Rafael Bush are slated to fill those rules. Both are second-year players that have yet to record a tackle on regular defense in 15 appearances between them.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reportsthat Falcons center Todd McClure underwent a minor surgical procedure on his knee on Monday according to head coach Mike Smith. Smith did not reveal a timetable for McClure’s return, although it appears likely that he could miss a week or two which would jeopardize his potential to start in the Falcons season opener against the Chicago Bears on September 11.
McClure started this past Saturday’s contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but exited the game fairly early presumably due to the knee issue. Joe Hawley resumed reps with the Falcons first team in his absence, and had his share of struggles going up against 5-time Pro Bowl Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton.
If McClure is to miss the season opener that is two weeks away, Hawley would likely be his replacement. It would mark the former 2010 fourth round picks first career start. McClure has started every game for the Falcons at center for the past 9 seasons. The last game he missed was the season finale in 2001.
Twelve weeks ago, I wrote that the Falcons needed middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to step up this year. And according to a write-up by the National Football Post’s Dan Pompei, it seems like the coaching staff thinks the same way. Because according to Pompei the Falcons coaching staff have given Lofton more leeway to be a leader in the middle of that defense.
Pompei writes that Lofton will be given the responsibility of calling different fronts and more blitzes on the defense. Lofton is now becoming more of a leader and essentially the quarterback of the defense. Throw in the fact that he was one of the key organizers of the Falcons off-season workouts, Lofton may be poised for a big year in 2011.
Lofton’s play dropped off last year as far as his ability to defend the run. And perhaps this leadership role will reinvigorate him with confidence to get back to a run-defending level he was in 2009. And with continued progression in coverage coupled with his leadership, Lofton can become a more complete playmaker and anchor this defense.