Peterson's Signing Leads Slow FA Class

Peterson's Signing Leads Slow FA Class

The Falcons made a major splash last season with the signing of running back Michael Turner, safety Erik Coleman, cornerback Von Hutchins and a host of other reserves, but free agency has been a real big yawner this year in Atlanta.

Until this week, their biggest moves were extending their own players in wide receiver Michael Jenkins and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. The next biggest move was re-signing reserve defensive end Chauncey Davis.

They finally made some outside moves in adding linebacker Mike Peterson (Jacksonville) and center/guard Brett Romberg. Peterson is expected to help fill the void left by the departures of outside linebackers Michael Boley (New York Giants) and Keith Brooking (Dallas). He can also mentor second-year middle linebacker Curtis Lofton.

Peterson, 6-1, 238 pounds, is a 10-year NFL veteran who has spent time with the Indianapolis Colts (1999-2002) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-2008).

For five seasons, Peterson was led by Falcons head coach Mike Smith who served as the Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2003-2007. He played mostly middle linebacker in Jacksonville. In 135 career games with 127 starts, Peterson has totaled 1,365 tackles (792 solo), 19.5 sacks, 15 interceptions, 40 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and seven fumbles recoveries.

"Mike is a very sound, versatile linebacker who has gained plenty of experience and knowledge over his 10-year career," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "He is the type of player who will lead the team on the field and in the locker room."

Romberg, 29, has climbed up the rough side of the NFL mountain, making it after being an undrafted free agent out of Miami. He made Jacksonville's team, but never appeared in a game. He joined the Rams in 2006 and has appeared in 33 games with 18 starts. He has a history with offensive line coach Paul Boudreau that stretches through Jacksonville and St. Louis.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Falcons showed up in force for Georgia Tech's pro day. Six members of the team's front office, including general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith were on hand. Dimitroff, a former college scouting director, likes to see the players on campus and later in the week attended Auburn's pro day.

"It's a little less intimidating for the players than being at the combine," Dimitroff said. "They have their support groups around them."

Smith also has a hand in player evaluations. "There is no surprise here," Dimitroff said. "Mike Smith and I think that it's really effective for us to visit pro days together and watch players and discuss them while we are watching them on the field."

--The Falcons will have seven selections in the first six rounds of April's NFL draft. The league released the draft order on Monday. Compensatory picks, awarded for teams that lose free agents the previous season, are made following the third round and will be announced at a later date to finalize the draft order. The Falcons did not lose any significant players to free agency last season.

The Falcons figure to get compensatory picks next season after losing several players, including Keith Brooking, Michael Boley and Domonique Foxworth, this offseason. The Falcons' own the 24th overall pick in the first round of this year's NFL draft. They have six total picks, one each in the first six rounds.

--Nobody bid on Michael Vick's Duluth mansion Tuesday, and the two representatives who showed up for the scheduled bankruptcy auction hinted that the court might have expected too much in a depressed economy. A potential buyer represented by Narender Reddy of Metro Brokers/GMAC offered $3.2 million for the former NFL standout's 20,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom property two months ago. But the bankruptcy court opted to go to auction, using that offer as the starting point.

Reddy said he was confident two months ago that the offer would be the best. "Even now, I told them that," he said, minutes after the auction was canceled.
Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback, is serving a sentence in federal prison for felony charges related to dog fighting. He is scheduled to be released to home confinement in Hampton, Va., in May.

--The Falcons biggest offseason move so far has been to re-sign defensive end Chauncey Davis to a four-year, $14 million contract. He received a $3 million signing bonus and has base salaries of $2 million in 2009, $2.6 million in 2010, $3 million in 2011 and $3.4 in 2012. The $3 million signing bonus accounts for $750,000 on the cap each year of the contract giving Davis' salary cap numbers of $2.75 million, $3.35, $3.75 and $4.15.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I had the pleasure of coaching Mike (Peterson) for five seasons in Jacksonville. He is a passionate player who brings a great deal of intensity to the game." -- Falcons coach Mike Smith on linebacker Mike Peterson, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Falcons have not addressed the loss of two starters in the secondary and have not acquired a pass-catching tight end. Safety Lawyer Milloy, one of the team's top tacklers, is a free agent and the Falcons have said they will not re-sign him. Also, cornerback Domonique Foxworth left for a lucrative deal in Baltimore.

As things stand, Thomas DeCoud and Jamaal Fudge are the top candidates to replace Milloy. Von Hutchins, Chevis Jackson, David Irons and Brent Grimes are contenders for Foxworth's spot. Former Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith has been in for a visit, but his price tag may be too high for the Falcons' liking.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Falcons have placed a priority of maintaining a high level of team chemistry in the locker room this offseason. They've retained the players who have brought into the program and let some of the more reluctant players leave. The only major loss was cornerback Domonique Foxworth, but they clearly didn't think he was a $7 million a year cornerback. "Good guys" like Chauncey Davis, Coy Wire, Tony Gilbert and Jamaal Fudge were retained. The holes in the secondary and a pass catching tight end have not been addressed.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Safety: Sean Jones, a former Georgia standout from Westlake High in Atlanta, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. He appeared to be best fit in free agency to replace Lawyer Milloy. But with former Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams on the market, the Falcons might become interested if his price tag drops.

2. Tight end: L.J. Smith had a great visit with the Falcons. The only problem is determining his value. The Falcons likely won't overpay since the position is well-stocked in the draft.

3. Defensive tackle: After letting Big Grady Jackson go, the Falcons will have to fortify the line against the run. Stillman College's Sammie Lee Hill could be a mid-round steal.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: P/K Michael Koenen: Tendered at $2.483M; signed tender Feb. 17.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--OT Wayne Gandy is veteran who could provide quality depth behind some young tackles.
--SS Lawyer Milloy will not return. He would like to end his career in Seattle and be reunited with coach Jim Mora.
--TE Marcus Pollard was signed late in the season and probably won't return.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)

--OT Pat McCoy (not tendered as RFA) spent the season on injured reserve.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RT Tyson Clabo (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) has started for last two seasons and played with mean streak.
--RG Harvey Dahl (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) won the starting job last year. Played well against the run and gave up only one sack in 16 starts.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--OL Renardo Foster.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--DE Chauncey Davis: UFA; $14M/4 yrs, guarantee unknown.
--S Jamaal Fudge: Potential RFA; terms unknown.
--LB Tony Gilbert: UFA; terms unknown.
--CB Brent Grimes: ERFA; terms unknown.
--S Antoine Harris: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DT Jason Jefferson: UFA; terms unknown.
--P/K Michael Koenen: FFA; $2.483M/1 yr.
--TE Justin Peelle: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--RB Jason Snelling: ERFA; terms unknown.
--C/G Ben Wilkerson (not tendered as RFA); $535,000/1 yr.
--LB Coy Wire: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--MLB Mike Peterson: UFA Jaguars; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Brett Romberg: UFA Rams; terms unknown.
--OT Will Svitek: FA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--LB Michael Boley: UFA Giants; $25M/5 yrs, $11M guaranteed.
--LB Keith Brooking: UFA Cowboys; $6M/3 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.
--CB Domonique Foxworth: UFA Ravens; $27.2M/4 yrs, $4M SB/$3.38 report bonus/$16.5M guaranteed.
--DT Grady Jackson: UFA Lions; $8M/3 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--LT Todd Weiner (retired).

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