On Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons announced the signings of five of their nine 2014 draft picks. The five that signed were all selected on the third and final day of the draft earlier this month, including cornerback Ricardo Allen and linebackers Prince Shembo, Yawin Smallwood, Marquis Spruill and Tyler Starr. All agreed to undisclosed four-year contracts.
Allen was a fifth-round selection of the team out of Purdue. Shembo was selected in the fourth round out of Notre Dame. Both Smallwood and Starr were selected at the end of the seventh round from Connecticut and South Dakota respectively, while the team traded into the fifth round to select Syracuse’s Spruill.
All five players are expected to compete for reserve roles with the team this summer. Their signings leave the Falcons first four selections unsigned: offensive tackle Jake Matthews, defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman, safety Dezmen Southward and running back Devonta Freeman.
Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen
On Sunday, I posted a list of 26 players that various reports indicated had signed undrafted free agent deals with the Atlanta Falcons. Monday, the team released their official list of 20 players that were signed after the 2014 NFL Draft.
Nineteen of the twenty names released today appeared on Sunday’s list, with Arkansas State wide receiver Julian Jones being the lone exception. Joining Jones are quarterback Jeff Mathews (Cornell), running back Jerome Smith (Syracuse), fullbacks Maurice Hagens (Miami) and Roosevelt Nix (Kent State), wide receivers Geraldo Boldewijn (Boise State), Freddie Martino (North Greenville), Bernard Reedy (Toledo) and Tramaine Thompson (Kent State), tight ends Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak (both from Wisconsin), center James Stone (Tennessee), defensive end Nosa Eguae (Auburn), nose tackle Donte Rumph (Kentucky), outside linebackers Walker May (Vanderbilt) and Jacques Smith (Tennessee), inside linebacker Brenden Daley (Hawaii), cornerback Devonta Glover-Wright (Utah State), safety Kimario McFadden (South Carolina State) and punter Matt Yoklic (Pittsburgh).
Mathews was a record-setting quarterback at Cornell that holds school and Ivy League records with 11,284 career yards passing and 72 touchdowns. Mathews was a four-year starter, leading Cornell to 12 wins over the course of his career. His best season came as a sophomore, where he posted career-highs with 67.9 percent completions, 3,412 passing yards and 25 touchdowns on his way to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors.
Jerome Smith starred his final two years at Syracuse, leading the team in rushing in both seasons. He combined for 2,085 yards and 15 touchdowns in those two seasons.
The Atlanta Falcons announced the signing of unrestricted free agent and former New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe. News of the Falcons interest in Pascoe broke this morning when it was reported that he was working out for the team. Terms of his contract were undisclosed. Pascoe spent the past five seasons with the Giants as a blocking tight end and fullback. For his career, Pascoe has started 32 games and caught 38 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown.
Pascoe was originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, after a solid playing career at Fresno State under former Falcons offensive line coach Pat Hill. Pascoe was cut by the 49ers in his first training camp and landed on the Giants practice squad. He was elevated to their active roster by year’s end, catching a single pass in four appearances. He would be released by the Giants the following summer and began the 2010 season on their practice squad. But he was soon elevated to the active roster after early injuries to both fullback Madison Hedgecock and tight end Kevin Boss. He started 11 games in 2010, primarily as a fullback and caught nine passes. In 2011, he would once again start 11 games, splitting his time between fullback and tight end. He finished that year with career-high 12 receptions for 136 yards. He has spent the bulk of the past two years as a blocking tight end, starting a combined nine games and catching 16 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Pascoe now becomes the most experienced tight end on the Falcons roster, having appeared in 66 career games. The only other two experienced tight ends on the roster are Levine Toilolo (16 career games) and Mickey Shuler (six games). Pascoe is likely to be expected to be a reserve with Toilolo, or possibly a rookie draft pick assuming the starting spot.
Much of the news surrounding the Atlanta Falcons this week centered on rumors about whether the team would trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Reports swarmed that the Falcons could swap picks with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 draft.
On Friday, Clowney worked out for the team in what wasn’t quite a normal workout, rather a biomechanical “force plate” test. Pro Football Talk has the scoop on what exactly went down. It appears that the test used on Clowney is far from a new development with the Falcons.
Vaughn McClure of ESPN indicates that the Falcons won’t make the trade up. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC is also suggesting that a trade up isn’t smart on the Falcons behalf as it may be a smokescreen.
In a related article, CBS Sports’ Will Brinson writes about the economics of trading up for the No. 1 pick.
The 2014 regular season schedule was also announced this week, and the Falcons are set to open up the season at home against their biggest rival, the New Orleans Saints. The war of words has already begun as Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan had some choice words for the Falcons offensive line.
When it comes to the Falcons-Saints matchup on September 7, in the immortal worlds of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait!”
Podcast co-host Allen Strk analyzes the schedule for Pro Football Spot.
The Falcons offseason program began this week. Mike Smith, Matt Ryan, Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore all spoke to the media on Tuesday and Wednesday and the official site provides the video.
Categories: Features Allen Strk, Baker, draft, Matt Chambers, Mike Smith, Moore, roster, Ryan, schedule, trade, Weatherspoon, weekly
On this fine Easter Sunday, let’s recap some of the news and stories surrounding the Atlanta Falcons over the past week:
The subject of fifth-year options for 2011 first-round picks became a popular subject this week. The Falcons have yet to exercise their option on wide receiver Julio Jones, and have until May 3 to do so.
The fifth-year option will be equivalent to the top 10 salaries for his position group in 2015, which according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure will give Jones a salary of $10.176 million next year. That money will be guaranteed, but for injury only.
It is very likely that the Falcons will exercise that option. The only reason not to is because they want to sign Jones to an extension before the start of the 2014 regular season. That certainly is a possibility, but unless progress on talks are pretty far along, it really doesn’t hurt the team to still exercise the option in the meantime.
Jones has a cap hit of roughly $5.15 million in 2014, which means that if the option is exercised, he will make around $15.3 million over the next two years, with roughly-two thirds of it guaranteed.
Comparatively, Mike Wallace signed a five-year contract worth $60 million last offseason, with a $27 million payout in his first two seasons, all of which was guaranteed (according to Spotrac.com). It’s certainly possible that Jones could receive substantially more money in his eventual extension from the Falcons. Through the first five games of the 2013 season before his season-ending foot injury, Jones was leading the league in receptions (41) and second in yards (580) behind only tight end Jimmy Graham (593).
One of the big stories of the week came when Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank appeared on 680 the Fan on Tuesday morning and spoke candidly about how he perceived the team lacking toughness. Blank highlighted the hit that New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro put on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the season-opener as a play that bothered him:
“And that play really bothered me, sincerely. It bothered me that none of our players, they all complained, but none of them went to the safety on the Saints and did anything.”
ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has a good recap of Blank’s interview as well as a follow-up piece praising Blank’s candidness. Blank’s comments echoed earlier ones made immediately following the 2013 regular season in which he expressed his desire to toughen up the Falcons.
Blank’s comments were followed up on Friday with a radio appearance by Ryan himself, who was diplomatic in defending his teammates’ inaction while also expressing his own praise for Blank for “having his back.”
The Atlanta Falcons announced the signings of safety Dwight Lowery and cornerback Josh Wilson earlier today. Lowery spent the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Wilson played with the Washington Redskins during that same span. Terms of their deals have yet to be disclosed, although Wilson’s deal is reportedly for one year.
Lowery missed most of the 2013 season with a concussion, suffered in the third game of the season on a blindside hit from Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. In 2012, he started nine games, missing five during midseason with an ankle injury and missing the final two with a foot injury. Lowery was first traded to the Jaguars at the start of the 2011 season after spending three years with the New York Jets, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Lowery began his career as a cornerback, but was moved to free safety as an injury replacement for Eric Smith near the end of the 2010 season before making the permanent transition upon his arrival in Jacksonville. He spent his first two years in the NFL primarily playing as the Jet’s nickel cornerback. Through his entire career, Lowery has started 41 games both at cornerback and safety and tallied 178 tackles, three sacks, 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and six recoveries.
Wilson signed a deal with the Redskins following the lockout in 2011 and started the past 48 games for them opposite DeAngelo Hall. He’s coming off a season where he finished with career-highs in tackles (89), sacks (two) and fumble recoveries (three). Prior to joining the Redskins, Wilson spent one season with the Baltimore Ravens after getting traded by the Seahawks. In both Baltimore and Seattle, Wilson played a lot as a nickel cornerback but still managed to start a combined 33 games between 2008-10.
Lowery is likely to move into the team’s vacant free safety position, while Wilson adds depth at cornerback and can compete for the nickel job or potentially push Robert Alford for a starting job. Wilson has experience playing the slot both in Washington and Seattle.
The Atlanta Falcons announced late Friday night that fullback Bradie Ewing had been released. Ewing was originally drafted by the team in the fifth round in 2012, but spent two injury-marred seasons in Atlanta.
Ewing landed on the injured reserve during his rookie season after tearing his ACL in the team’s preseason opener. Ewing missed a good chunk of preseason with an unspecified injury but then returned to win the starting position. But he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Falcons’ Week 2 win over the St. Louis Rams.
In Ewing’s absence, the Falcons have gotten good production from his replacements in Mike Cox in 2012 and Patrick DiMarco last season. In two career appearances, Ewing finished with two receptions for 29 yards. DiMarco currently remains the lone fullback on the Falcons roster currently.
Not only did the team make several new additions to the roster but the Atlanta Falcons also parted ways with some long-time veterans on Tuesday to start free agency. The team announced that tight end Tony Gonzalez and safety Thomas DeCoud were officially released, moves that were long expected to be made.
Gonzalez had announced his intentions to retire prior to last season and had made good on those plans this offseason when he was hired by CBS Sports to become an in-studio analyst for the network this fall. But because he had not yet filed his retirement papers, the Falcons were forced to cut him in lieu of paying him an option bonus this week.
DeCoud’s impending release had been reported two weeks ago due to a portion of his salary becoming guaranteed if he was on the roster as of March 15. DeCoud was drafted by the Falcons in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and became a regular starter at free safety the following season. He managed to start 78 games over five seasons with the Falcons, collecting 14 interceptions. He earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2012 with a team-high six interceptions, which was also the second-most among safeties in the NFL that year. But DeCoud’s play took a notable dip last season. Premium website Pro Football Focus rated him as the 83rd best safety in the league last season out of 86 players graded.
The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier this evening
that guard Garrett Reynolds was released from the team. Reynolds’ departure was expected
given his finishing the 2013 season on the team’s inactive list coupled with the recent signing of Gabe Carimi
, who potentially fills the same niche. Per Over the Cap.com
, Reynolds’ release frees up nearly $1.4 million in cap space for the Falcons in 2014.
Reynolds started the first nine games of 2013 at right guard, but was benched in Week 11 when the team inserted center Joe Hawley into the lineup and moved Peter Konz from center to right guard. But Konz performed poorly early in that game, and Reynolds finished the game at right guard. He would resume his starting position the following week against the New Orleans Saints, but would not finish that game due to his own struggles. He was reduced to a backup role with hardly any playing time for the next four games, before being inactive in the team’s season finale against the Carolina Panthers.
Reynolds was originally a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of North Carolina in 2009. He spent his first two seasons as a backup to right guard Harvey Dahl, before getting first crack at replacing him in 2011. But he was benched after making seven starts that year in favor of Hawley, who finished the season as the starter. Reynolds would again resume the starting position in 2012, making six starts before injuries sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He was then replaced by Konz for the rest of the season.
The Falcons have had a revolving door at the right guard position since the departure of Dahl before the 2011 season. That has been partly due to the fact that Reynolds has not shown the consistency to hold the position long-term. However, Reynolds did make steady progress each year. Per the site Pro Football Focus, he graded out better each subsequent year as a starter finishing with a career-best +2.8 grade this year. That grade rated second-best on the Falcons behind left guard Justin Blalock in 2013.