The Atlanta Falcons announced yesterday that they claimed center Gino Gradkowski off waivers from the Denver Broncos, and made room for him on their roster by releasing center Joe Hawley.
Hawley’s departure comes as a surprise given that he was expected to enter the season as the starter. But he had been recovering from a season-ending knee injury from last season and earlier reports this summer indicated that the injury had not completely healed. Mike Person had taken the majority of snaps at center this summer, alternating series with Hawley in preseason games. James Stone worked as a center last season, but was worked at left guard for much of this summer. But Stone’s struggles in the preseason prompted his return to center. Person and Stone are likely options to replace Hawley along with Gradkowski.
Gradkowski, 26, lost the summer competition for the Broncos’ vacant center position with Matt Paradis, prompting his release. The Broncos traded for Gradkowski in April before the draft to fill that role. Gradkowski followed Gary Kubiak from Baltimore, where Gradkowski spent the previous three years. Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens in 2014, a year in which Gradkowski served as a reserve center behind Jeremy Zuttah. The previous year in 2013, Gradkowski started every game at center, but his subpar play prompted the Ravens to acquire Zuttah a year ago.
Gradkowski was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of Delaware, where he was teammates with current Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow. Gradkowski is the younger brother of Pittsburgh Steelers reserve quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.