News & Notes: Gonzalez Adds New Dimension
Jamie Squire

Posted May 8, 2009


The Falcons spent the better part of the offseason looking for a pass-catching tight end. They kicked the tires on L.J. Smith before deciding he wasn't a scheme fit. With the draft approaching and Brandon Pettigrew rising in the draft, the pulled the trigger on the trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for 10-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez.

Most of the focus has been on how Gonzalez will fit into the passing game. Opposite Pro Bowler Roddy White, Gonzalez figures to keep teams honest and pull some coverage away from White. But Falcons coach Mike Smith believes that Gonzalez is just as important to the running attack.

The Falcons will remain a running team and hope that Michael Turner can duplicate his Pro Bowl breakout season. Turner powered the offense last year by rushing for 1,699 yards and leaving a slew of franchise records in his wake.

"I like what our offense did last year and I said from the very beginning that we're going to be a team that runs the football and stops the run," Smith said. "That's not going to change. I really think Tony Gonzalez is going to help our run game, too."

Gonzalez has played 12 seasons and has 916 catches for 76 touchdowns.

He has more catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches than any other NFL tight end. But while with the Chiefs, Gonzalez was never on a team that won a playoff game.

Gonzalez, 33, has three years remaining on his contract and he plans to fulfill and play those years. He hopes that the Falcons are indeed on the rise and a playoff contender. He said going to Super Bowl was his main focus in coming to Atlanta.

The Falcons made the playoffs last season behind the running of Turner, wide receiver Roddy White and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. With Gonzalez on board, they'll be expected to make another playoff run.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--The Falcons signed free-agent linebacker Edmond Miles. Miles played in two games with the New York Giants last season and made one tackle. The former University of Iowa standout entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007 and played in 16 games with the Miami Dolphins that season, leading the team with 16 special-teams tackles.

The Falcons lost linebackers Michael Boley (Giants) and Keith Brooking (Cowboys) in free agency, but they are still deep at the position, with veterans Mike Peterson, Coy Wire and Stephen Nicholas on the roster. Miles was signed to add depth to the position.

--Retired NFL coach Tony Dungy met with suspended Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in prison at Leavenworth, Kan. "I can confirm that coach Dungy and Michael met today," Vick's longtime agent, Joel Segal, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It was a real positive meeting."

Segal gave no further details. Vick, who is serving a 23-month sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation, is set to be released to home confinement on May 20. His sentence ends on July 20. Dungy, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl title, retired in January.

--CB Chris Owens, the team's third-round draft pick from San Jose State, will likely get an opportunity to start. "Chris Owens for us is a combination of a very physical and aggressive corner," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "He comes to the table with a lot of speed. He's a sub-4.5 guy. He's actually a lower-4.4 guy. He's around a 4.43 player. He's increasing our speed in the secondary. Increases our physicality and has very good ball skills. He's gotten his hands on a lot of balls. He definitely brings an element of urgency to our defense as well."

--Some predraft projections had Richmond's Lawrence Sidbury going as high as the second round. So when the Falcons saw him sitting there in the fourth round, they snapped him up. "Lawrence was brought in here as a rush end-type. He is a good athlete with what we believe is some serious upside," Dimitroff said. "He has the ability to get off the mark quickly, to get upfield. He has the (ability) to turn the corner and rush the passer. He is still a little bit raw and needs to grow in a number of areas ... we were surprised to get him there in the fourth round. He ended up falling to us."

Sidbury is raw and will have to work on his techniques. "He's a 4.54 in our books," Dimitroff said. "If he can continue to learn to rush the passer and continue to learn you have a legitimate DPR -- defensive pass rush guy. He's still developing."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You guys are going to be seeing this theme. Everyone one of these guys except for the offensive lineman has speed. When you go on the field in the training camps and OTAs you are going to see an increased level of speed." -- Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on the focus on increasing team speed during the draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson was one of the more interesting undrafted free agents that the Falcons signed. He was a prep legend, leading Hoover High to three straight state championships and had the Crimson Tide in the hunt for a national championship last season.

At 6-1 1/2, 219 pounds, he has size but will have to refine his footwork to land a roster spot. Behind Matt Ryan are Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley. Wilson figures to have a shot at the No. 3 spot if the Falcons elect to go with Redman or Shockley as the No. 2.

MEDICAL WATCH:
--Tight end Ben Hartsock (toe) has been participating in offseason weight training and was cleared to participate in minicamp. He ended the season on injured reserve.
--Offensive guard/center Alex Stepanovich had back surgery and was not cleared for minicamp.
--Cornerback Von Hutchins (broken foot) was limited in minicamp, but expected to be fully cleared for Organized Training Activities that start on May 20.

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

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--OT Wayne Gandy.
--SS Lawyer Milloy.
--TE Marcus Pollard.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--OT Pat McCoy (not tendered as RFA).

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.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--OL Renardo Foster.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--OG Harvey Dahl: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--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
--TE Tony Gonzalez (trade Chiefs).
--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.
--DE Simon Fraser (released).
--DT Grady Jackson: UFA Lions; $8M/3 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--DT Kindal Moorehead (released).
--WR Laurent Robinson (traded Rams).
--LT Todd Weiner (retired).

 


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