Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that long-time Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking has signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
Brooking first joined the Falcons as a first round pick in 1998, and has since been a fixture on the team’s defense. In eleven seasons with the Falcons, Brooking went to five Pro Bowls. During his Falcon career, Brooking played multiple positions playing inside and outside linebacker for the team. This past season, Brooking led the Falcons in tackles with 102. For his career, he started 146 games, recording 1,132 tackles, 17 sacks, and 12 interceptions.
Brooking last went to the Pro Bowl in 2005, and his play has noticeably declined since then. Unfortunately, the last memory of Brooking in a Falcons uniform perhaps will be the blown coverage on a key third down late in the Falcons playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. That play essentially sealed the Falcons loss, and the writing has been on the wall ever since that Brooking could be gone.
In Dallas, Brooking will re-join Wade Phillips. Phillips, now the Cowboys head coach served as the Falcons defensive coordinator from 2002-03.
The Falcons have now lost both starting outside linebackers with Michael Boley signing with the New York Giants earlier today.
Contrasting a previous report that Keith Brooking’s return to Atlanta was doubtful, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that re-signing the longtime Falcon linebacker appears to be a top priority for the organization. Brooking is set to hit the free agent market on February 27. Another report indicated that the Falcons could release Brooking prior to that date, but it is believed that Brooking’s contract will void making releasing him unnecessary.
Per Ledbetter, the Falcons are currently in the process of re-signing some of their free agents, and it appears that Brooking is among them.
Adam Schefter of NFL.com reports that it is doubtful that long-time Falcon linebacker Keith Brooking will be returning to the Falcons next season. Brooking is among several Falcon players that are free agents this off-season, and per Schefter the Falcons may opt to pass on re-signing him due to increased age and declining ability.
Brooking, 33, was the Falcon player that blew an assignment that led to the Cardinals converting on a key third down in the final minutes of their playoff loss on Sunday. Brooking led the Falcons in tackles this year with 102. He was the team’s first round pick in 1998 and is their longest-tenured player.
Not surprisingly, the AJC reports that linebacker Keith Brooking will be a recipient of one of the radio headsets inside helmets, which have been newly implemented this season to allow defensive coaches to radio in calls and signals to defensive players. Previously, this technology had been used offensively with quarterbacks, but the league has decided to do the same for defense.
Teams will have two devices due to defensive substitutions, but only one player will be allowed to use it at a time. Brooking will be the primary person. No word on who the alternative option would be when Brooking is out of the game.
The AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that several Falcons veterans may not be back in 2008. Among players named by Wyche, who cites NFL officials and player agents, are safeties Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker, along with offensive linemen Wayne Gandy, Kynan Forney, and Todd Weiner, wide receivers Brian Finneran and Joe Horn, running back Warrick Dunn, quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich, and linebacker Keith Brooking. Wyche reports that many of these players could be released as soon as Friday, February 15.
Wyche indicates that one player that could be potentially safe is tight end Alge Crumpler, who is coming off a down year. But Crumpler may be retained since it’s doubtful the Falcons could add someone in the draft or free agency that could adequately replace him.
Crocker is an unrestricted free agent, and is not expected to be re-signed. The remaining players represent 10 of the team’s top 15 highest-paid players based on 2008 base salary. The Falcons currently have around $6 million in cap space for the 2008 season. Dunn, Gandy, Milloy, Forney, Harrington, and Leftwich are all entering the final years on their contracts. Brooking and Finneran have two years left on their deals, while Horn and Weiner have three and four, respectively. Among them, Brooking ($4.9 million), Dunn ($4 million), Gandy ($3.5 million), and Forney ($2.95 million) have the highest 2008 base salaries.
AJC’s Steve Wyche reports that Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams is expected to miss several months after receiving surgery for a torn pectoral muscle suffered last week while lifting weights. Williams could miss training camp and the preseason per Wyche’s report.
Williams just re-signed with the Falcons after being a restricted free agent on April 23. He is slated to be the starting weakside linebacker for the Falcons this year. Over the weekend, the Falcons drafted linebacker Stephen Nicholas in the fourth round. Originally slated to line up behind Michael Boley on the strongside, Nicholas will now begin his Falcon career on the weakside as a replacement for Williams.
The Falcons have some versatility, since Keith Brooking can also play weakside linebacker. Which would leave third-year linebacker Jordan Beck as the likely alternative as the starter at middle linebacker.