NFL Free Agency 2011: The Top 10 Atlanta Falcons Signings over the Last Decade

Will BrownContributor IMay 9, 2011

NFL Free Agency 2011: The Top 10 Atlanta Falcons Signings over the Last Decade

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 18: Warrick Dunn #28 of the Atlanta Falcons carries the ball during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on November 18, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta 31-7. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    During the last 10 years, the Atlanta Falcons went from the laughingstock of the league to an Super Bowl contender, to a broken franchise following the Michael Vick fiasco, back to a Super Bowl contender and looking like they should stick around for many years to come.

    During this time they have made several big splashes in free agency that most people may have forgotten about, or will remember once it is brought up. These players helped turn this franchise around and some are continuing to do so.

    So without further ado, we start the list.

    Writer's Note: There is a chance that I have missed a player or two. I went through the transactions over the last ten years on ESPN, and there were a lot of players. So, if I missed one let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can. 

Honorable Mentions

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    FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - JULY 30:  Dunta Robinson #23 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during opening day of training camp on July 30, 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Dunta Robinson, 2010 CB

    Dunta Robinson was signed on March 6, 2010. While many people weren't impressed with Robinson in his first season as a Falcon, he did bring a good resume with him.

    Robinson picked off 13 passes over his six seasons as a Houston Texan, though six of them came in his first season. He recorded one interception this past season, but has shown that he is a solid tackler and isn't scared to give run support.

    More production is going to be needed to keep Falcons happy with him, but Robinson is a good cornerback that has shut-down corner-type talent. I would be surprised if Robinson doesn't make his way into this list next year.

    Wayne Gundy, 2006 Tackle

    Gundy started 21 games over three years for the Falcons, including all 16 in 2006.

    Chris Redman, 2007 QB

    Statistically, Redman hasn't done too terribly much of the Falcons. What Redman does give us though, is a solid backup that can manage the game as well as most in the league. He isn't going wow you with any throws, but he knows the offense and is a guy that gives us confidence following Matt Ryan

10. Eric Weems, 2007 KR/PR Undrafted Free Agent

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 17:  Eric Weems #14 of the Atlanta Falcons in action against  the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 17, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    While he wasn't a "true"  free agent signing, picking up Weems as an undrafted free agent following the 2007 draft has been one of the better, yet often overlooked pickups during the last 10 years.

    Weems is mainly a special teams player, but this past year became one of the better return men in the game after returning one kickoff and one punt back for a touchdown this past year. His 27.5 kick return average ranked third in all of the NFL.

    Weems was a 2010 Pro Bowler and All-Pro selection.

9. Harvey Dahl, 2007 Guard

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 17:  Harvey Dahl #73 of the Atlanta Falcons in action against  the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 17, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Like another player further up this list,Harvey Dahl is an overlooked offensive linemen that has became a staple of the Atlanta Falcons offensive line.

    Dahl started all 16 games for the Falcons this past season and is yet another solid offensive lineman that makes up one of the better lines in all of the NFL.

8. Mike Peterson, 2008 OLB

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 28:  Mike Peterson #53 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after recovering a fumble by the Green Bay Packers in the end zone at Georgia Dome on November 28, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Falcons signed the veteran Mike Peterson in early March 2009, and he has continued to be a solid contributor for the team over the past two years.

    He started all 16 games in 2009 and picked up 109 tackles, one sack, and one interception. He started 12 games in 2010 and was still pretty effective overall and is still providing great leadership.

7. Grady Jackson, 2006 DT, 2008 DT

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 16: Grady Jackson #90 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Georgia Dome on December 16, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    During his three years over two stints with the Falcons, Grady Jackson was a great run stopper that clogged up the line with his huge size (listed at 6'2" 345 during his last season).

    He only picked up three sacks in those three seasons, but he did pick up 82 tackles with the vast majority against the run. 

6. Erik Coleman, 2008 DB

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 2:  Erik Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 2, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Falcons defeated the Raiders 24-0. (Ph
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Signed on March 1, 2008, Erik Coleman brought veteran leadership to a team that would become the turnaround of the Falcons' franchise.

    During his first two years as a Falcon, Coleman picked up 221 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. He only played in 12 games this past season, however, due to the emergence of William Moore. He was a very good player for the defense that played with a hard-nosed style and a knack for making a play when we needed him to. 

5. Lawyer Milloy, 2006 DB

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 2:  Lawyer Milloy #36 of the Atlanta Falcons looks on from his safety position during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 2, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Falcons defeated the R
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Signed on March 17, 2006, Lawyer Milloy brought a sense of toughness to the team while also bringing strong leadership during the 2007 debacle. He would also become a focal point for the 2008 team's defense that has become the turnaround of the franchise's fortune.

    Milloy racked up 271 tackles and three interceptions during his three seasons in Atlanta. He also deflected 15 passes. 

4. Brent Grimes, 2006 CB Undrafted Free Agent

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    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Brent Grimes #20 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after making an interception against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Falcons defeated the Seahawks 34-18. (Photo by Otto Gr
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Like Weems, Grimes wasn't a true free agent signing, but the cornerback was among the best in the league last year.

    He has started 30 games over the last three years, including all 16 last year, but has appeared in an extra 14 games during that time span. Last year he tied for the team lead with five interceptions en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance.

    He has racked up 199 tackles and 12 interceptions over his career. 

3. Tyson Clabo, 2005 Tackle

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 28: Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo #77 of the Atlanta Falcons gets set at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 28, 2008 in Charlotte, North Caroli
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Signed to the Falcons practice squad on September 21, 2005, Tyson Clabo has since become one of the anchors of the Atlanta line. 

    Clabo has started over 70 games during his time in Atlanta and should continue to do so heading into 2011. He was selected as a first-time Pro Bowler in 2010.

2. Warrick Dunn, 2002 RB

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    ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 30: Running back Warrick Dunn #28 of the Atlanta Falcons rushs upfield against the Houston Texans at the Georgia Dome on September 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Warrick Dunn was signed to a six-year contract on March 16, 2002 and spent the next six seasons showing why size means doesn't mean everything in the NFL

    During his six years in Atlanta, Dunn rushed for 5,979 yards and 30 touchdowns. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry and was as consistent as any running back over that time. If he was healthy, he was effective.

    Dunn was also a leader off the field and became a fan favorite shortly after joining the Falcons. Dunn was selected to the 2005 Pro Bowl following his best season as a Falcon.

1. Michael Turner, 2008 RB

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons runs upfield during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    After backing up LaDanian Tomlinson for the first four years of his career, the Atlanta Falcons decided to take a stab at the thickly set running back and haven't looked back since. 

    Michael Turner has rushed for 3,941 yards and 39 touchdowns in his three seasons as the Falcons' tailback. This includes missing five games in 2009, so you were likely looking at about another 400 yards added to that if healthy.

    "The Burner" has been the Falcons' top free agent pickup over the last ten years, despite everything that Dunn did during his time as a Falcon. Maybe I can say they are 1a and 1b?

    He has been selected to two Pro Bowls, 2008 and 2010, and was on pace to have another selection before getting hurt in 2009.