Atlanta Falcons:Lawrence Sidbury Signing Signals Focus on Defense

Tim DarnellContributor IJuly 20, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 23:  Defensive lineman Lawrence Sidbury of Richmond runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

With the signing of fourth—rounder Lawrence Sidbury, the Falcons now have only two remaining draft picks unsigned, including first—rounder Peria Jerry. The signing of Sidbury ,and the size of the defensive end’s contract, a four-year, $4.4 million package, signals the Falcons’ seriousness and focus on improving the defense for their ’09 campaign.

Sidbury, 6′3″, 265 lbs., started 31 of 52 career games at the University of Richmond, recording 145 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 38 tackles for loss. His 20.5 sacks rank fourth in school history and his 11.5 quarterback takedowns in 2008 rank third on the school’s single—season records list.

Now, of course, the focus must intensify on Jerry, the defensive tackle who has been described by SI.Com’s Ross Tucker as a “rolling bucket of butcher knives.” My guess is that, any day now, we’ll see a press release announcing Jerry’s signing, as well as that of William Moore, a safety out of Missouri who, along with Jerry, are expected to compete for starting jobs on a defensive squad that lost or released five starters from last season.

The Falcons’ organization has been through too much over the last several years, and Coach Mike Smith and Co. have too much momentum going from last season, to risk a silly and meaningless training camp holdout.

In addition to Sidbury, the Falcons have signed cornerback William Middleton, a fifth—round pick from Furman who graduated from Atlanta’s Marist School; defensive tackle Vance Walker, a seventh—round pick from Georgia Tech; cornerback Chris Owens, a third round pick from San Jose State; linebacker Spencer Adkins, a sixth round pick from Miami; and tackle Garrett Reynolds, a fifth round pick from North Carolina.