The Atlanta Falcons off-season had some downs but had more ups. The Dirty Birds made some hard but reasonable decisions to improve their team.
From free agency to the draft the Falcons have done a lot to improve their team.
Free Agency; Pre-Draft
The Falcons were fairly quiet to start the free agency period and lost a handful of starters and veteran experience.
Keith Brooking, a former 12th overall pick of the Falcons, signed with the Dallas Cowboys after Brooking and the Falcons' Organization could not reach an agreement.
After 11 years in a Falcons' uniform, Brooking tallied 972 tackles, 17 sacks, and 12 interceptions. Brooking also became the 5th player in franchise history to total 200+ tackles in a season in 2001.
Michael Boley, a former 5th round pick (160thoverall), signed withthe New York Giants. In four seasons with the Falcons, Boley had 330 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5 interceptions.
In 2007, Boleyhad the best season of his short career with the Falcons. Boley tallied 109 tackles (93 solo), 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions. After that season Boley showed great potential, but his 2008 campaign failed in comparison as Boley only had 73 tackles, no sacks, and only 1 interception.
Lawyer Milloy, who was signed as a free agent in 2006, was not re-signed by the Falcons and is currently a free agent. Milloy exceeded 90 tackles in the secondary but his age made him a liability in coverage.
Grady Jackson, who was signed as a free agent in 2006 and again in 2008, signed with the Detroit Lions. In 2006, Jackson led the league in tackles for a loss.
Dominique Foxworth, who was acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos in 2008. Foxworth was actually the only free agent the Falcons wanted to re-sign, but Foxworth's asking price was too steep andhe eventually signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
Foxworth's contract withthe Ravens is worth$28 million over four years with $16.5 million guaranteed.
The Falcons also made a couple of free agent acquisitions.
Mike Peterson was signed on March 10th. Peterson played under Falcons' Head Coach Mike Smith in Jacksonville and is already familiarwith the defensive scheme.
Peterson was selected in the second round (36th overall) by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999.
In his 10 year career, Peterson has tallied 1,365 tackles, 19.5 sacks, and 15 interceptions. Last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars Peterson led the Jaguars with 139 tackles.
The Falcons also signed Center Brett Romberg before the draft.
The biggest move by the Falcons was the Tony Gonzalez trade. The trade for Gonzalez only cost the Falcons a 2010 draft pick in next year's draft.
Tony Gonzalez, the leagues all-time leader in almost every statistical category by a tight end, completes a Falcons' offense that shunned the tight end position from the offense last year.
The Falcons had a great draft last year by acquiring four eventual starters including rookie of the year, Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Curtis Lofton, and Chevis Jackson who made one start last season.
And the Falcons' draft class this year may be just as good.
With the 24th pick in the draft the Falcons selected defensive tackle Peria Jerry (pronounced PUR-RAY) from Ole Miss.
Jerry led the Ole Miss Rebels and SEC in tackles for a loss last year. Jerry also had six sacks.
In the second round (55th overall) the Falcons selected safety William Moore from Missouri.
Moore had a great a 2007 season with the Missouri Tigers. Moore had 8 interceptions, a school record, and 117 tackles. Moore decided to return to school for his senior season, but if he had decided to enter the draft many said Moore may have been a top 10 pick.
In 2008, Moore struggled with injuries and his draft status dropped.
Other picks by the Falcons were corner back Christopher Owens in the third, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury in the fourth, corner back William Middleton in the fifth, tackle Garrett Reynolds and outside linebacker Spencer Adkins in the sixth, and defensive tackle Vance Walker in the seventh.
Undrafted Free Agency
The Falcons' biggest undrafted rookie signing was Georgia native wide receiver Aaron Kelly from Clemson.
Kelly has great size standing 6 ft. 5 in. and weighing 190 lbs. Kelly's height may make him a great red zone target when Michael Jenkins or Tony Gonzalez aren't available.
The Falcons also signed many other rookie free agents including Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, Texas linebacker Rashad Bobino, Florida State linebacker Derek Nicholson, and punter/kicker Robbie Dehaze.