NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report that the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with former Miami Dolphins free-agent defensive end Derrick Shelby. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Shelby agreed to a four-year deal that will pay him $18 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. The deal could be worth a maximum value of $21 million, most likely due to extra incentives included.
Shelby is coming off a career-best season with the Dolphins, having started nine games and finished with career-highs of 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also had a 22-yard interception returned for a touchdown and forced two fumbles. Shelby stepped in for an injured Cameron Wake after the latter suffered a torn Achilles injury at left defensive end for the Dolphins and proved an effective two-way defender both against the pass and run. He was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest rated edge-defender hitting the open market this offseason due to that ability to fit in as an every-down difference-maker.
Shelby made his bones for four years in Miami as a rotational end, spelling Wake and others. Despite only starting one game prior to this past year, Shelby recorded a combined 5.5 sacks over the 2013 and 2014 seasons with 58 tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles also to his name.
Shelby was suspended by the Dolphins for a game in 2014 following his arrest following an incident at a Fort Lauderdale that saw him charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Those misdemeanor charges were later dismissed.
He was originally signed by the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2012 and celebrated his 27th birthday last week. He likely first came to the Falcons’ attention during a standout performance against the team during last summer’s preseason.
Shelby could fill a variety of niches in Atlanta, but most likely will play a similar role that he did in Miami. That will likely include playing left defensive end for the Falcons, potentially replacing veteran Tyson Jackson both in the base package and on passing downs.
The Falcons are looking to upgrade a pass rush that ranked dead last in the NFL in 2015 with 19 sacks and hope that Shelby with an increased amount of reps will help accomplish that.