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Falcons pick up Turner

March 2nd, 2008

Michael Turner, Chargers.com/Mike Nowak The Falcons announced the signings of two free agents today, running back Michael Turner and tight end Ben Hartsock. Turner comes from the San Diego Chargers where he spent the past four seasons as a backup to Pro Bowler LaDainian Tomlinson. Hartsock is a reserve tight end for the Tennessee Titans this past year.

NFL.com reports that Turner signed a six-year contract worth $34.5 million, including $15 million in guaranteed money. Turner made a name for himself making the most of sparse opportunities behind Tomlinson. In his career, he’s carried the ball 228 times for 1257 yards (5.5 avg) and 6 touchdowns. He’s had three 100-yard games, all coming in the reserve role. Most recently, he had a 10-carry 147-yard performance against the Denver Broncos in Week 5 of this past season. The Falcons expect Turner to be the lead back in their offense, taking over the role of Warrick Dunn. It’s now expected with Turner’s addition, Dunn will be released. Dunn has been the team’s leading rusher for 5 of the past 6 seasons, and currently ranks third all-time on the Falcons rushing list with 5,981 yards.

Hartsock was originally a third round pick in 2004 for the Indianapolis Colts. He played two seasons for the Colts until he was released in 2006. He was picked up by the Titans, and has served a valuable role as a blocker. For his career, he has started 15 game of 45 games, catching 24 passes for 247 yards (10.3 avg). His best season was this most recent one, where he started 9 games, caught 12 passes for 138 yards (11.5 avg). While not expected to replace Alge Crumpler’s production in the passing game, he gives the Falcons an established blocker from which they can build in the future. The terms of Hartsock’s deal have not been announced.

UPDATE: The AJC reports that Hartsock signed a four-year deal worth $9 million, including $2.25 million guaranteed.

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