The Atlanta Falcons announced the roster move of signing journeyman kicker Shayne Graham today. To make room for Graham on the roster, the Falcons waived linebacker Joplo Bartu. Graham’s addition was to shore up depth at kicker given that Matt Bryant is nursing a strained quadriceps injury, suffered in practice this week. Bryant missed a 46-yard field in the first quarter of the Falcons 24-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn did not rule out that Bryant could play in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Graham, 37, is a former divisional rival, having played for the New Orleans Saints in 2013 and 2014. Graham was cut by the Saints in May shortly after signing a one-year extension with the team. In little more than a full season with the Saints, Graham played in 18 games and hit 21 of 24 field goals (87.5 percent) with the team. Graham began the 2013 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as an insurance policy for an injured Shaun Suisham, but did not play in a game with the Steelers before being released. Graham had spent the summer with the Cleveland Browns before being unceremoniously dumped prior to the start of the 2013 season.
In 2012, Graham played for the Houston Texans and had split time with the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens in 2011 and New England Patriots and New York Giants in 2010. Four all four teams he served as an injury replacement for their regular kickers. He also spent time in the training camps of the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in 2011, as well as the Ravens previously in 2010.
Graham’s last stable job in the NFL came with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent seven seasons (2003-09) as their kicker, and earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2005 when he made 28 of 32 field-goal attempts. Prior to joining the Bengals, Graham kicked for the Carolina Panthers (2002) and Buffalo Bills (2001). He also spent time with the Seattle Seahawks (2001-02), Saints (2000) and got his start in pro football with the Richmond Speed of the AF2 league in 2000, where he played in one game. Graham played college football at Virginia Tech.
Over the course of his 16-year career, Graham has kicked in 173 NFL games and made 266 of 311 field-goal attempts (85.5 percent) and 421 extra points. His field-goal accuracy currently ranks ninth best all-time among kickers.
Bartu was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Texas State in 2013. He quickly impressed the team with his athleticism, earning a role in their dime sub-package as a coverage linebacker. But due to injuries, managed to start 13 games that year mostly at weak-side linebacker and had 85 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He went on to start 14 games in 2014, finishing with 82 tackles, one sack and two fumble recoveries. With the arrival of new head coach, Bartu saw a demotion to a backup spot at weak-side linebacker. The midseason addition of linebacker Phillip Wheeler saw a further demotion of Bartu down the depth chart, and he managed to appear in just two games since that roster move.