This is meant to distinguish which non-rookie addition to the team (i.e. free agent) stood out the most. At the midpoint, Kelvin Hayden was the pick. By year’s end, I can’t really take it away from him.
Hayden missed the last five games with injury, which is sort of damning that none of the other players were able to step up and take this honor from him in that span. And those other options would be Ray Edwards, James Sanders, and Reggie Kelly.
More on Edwards will come later, but he certainly did not produce anywhere to the level many expected from him. He was rarely a factor as a pass rusher, and while he made solid contributions as a run defender, the Falcons already had that player in Jamaal Anderson before.
Sanders got numerous opportunities to perform, having started for Thomas DeCoud early in the year, and William Moore later when he was out with injury. And while Sanders was okay, he never really stood out either against the pass or a run defender.
And don’t get me started on Reggie Kelly. He brought nothing to the table. He was tasked to be a blocker, but did very little there, and his lone reception was practically on account of charity by Matt Ryan.
So again, you’re stuck with Kelvin Hayden. Hayden was a solid pickup in the nickel. He wasn’t great all the time, but he at least inspired confidence that unlike Chris Owens, he was not going to get abused in that role. And while he gave his share of receptions, rarely were they big, game-changing ones like constantly seemed to be the case when Owens was in that role.