NFL Free Agency 2011: Atlanta Falcons Sign Ray Edwards to 5-Year Deal

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NFL Free Agency 2011: Atlanta Falcons Sign Ray Edwards to 5-Year Deal
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Jay Glazer of Fox Sports is reporting that the Falcons have signed defensive end Ray Edwards to a five-year deal, but the numbers haven't been disclosed yet.

Edwards was the top available 4-3 defensive end and he gives the Falcons a guy who should be a cornerstone of the defense for years to come. The 26-year-old racked up 37 tackles in 2010, including eight sacks, in just 14 games. In 2009, Edwards was even better, getting 51 tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Edwards isn't an elite pass-rusher, but he is a very good overall player who is one of the best in the league. Playing opposite John Abraham should only help his sack production, but either way, Edwards is good against the run and has shown that he is very capable of getting to the quarterback.

The move gives the Falcons what they desperately needed: a good defensive end to play on the other side of John Abraham. Edwards should very much help the team get more pressure on the quarterback, as the Falcons were 20th in the league with 31 sacks.

Abraham alone had 13 of them.

The signing is the Falcons biggest splash thus far in free agency and certainly has to only improve their chances of being among the favorites to win the NFC. 

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The playoff loss against the Green Bay Packers showed how much the Falcons lacked when it came to pass defense. Not only could they seemingly not cover the Packers' receivers, but when they got close to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they could not bring him down, consistently letting him slide away and find an open receiver.

Edwards had two sacks in his last game against the Packers. That alone is a good sign for the team. It becomes even more important when you realize that the Falcons have to play Josh Freeman and Drew Brees twice every season. Having two top-notch defensive ends will greatly improve this defense.

This could be the first season that Edwards reaches double-digit sacks, but even if he doesn't, he will be all over the quarterback and will be able to set the edge against the run.

Rise up, Falcons fans!

UPDATE: Deal is for five years, $30 million, $11 million guaranteed. Per SportsCenter. 

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