Falcons Lose LB Weatherspoon for Year With Torn Achilles

Sean Weatherspoon's injury is a big blow to the Falcons linebacker corps. (Stacy Revere)

Sean Weatherspoon’s injury is a big blow to the Falcons linebacker corps. (Stacy Revere)

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is out for the year after tearing his Achilles.

He was already working back from a knee injury that ended his season last year in Week 15.

It’s a big blow for the Falcons’ linebacking corps.

Weatherspoon was in the last year of his rookie contract. Unfortunately, I can’t see the Falcons bringing him back unless it’s on a incentive-laden, prove-it deal.

Hopefully the linebacker has a speedy recovery and returns to the field soon.

 

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Falcons Agree to Terms with Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman has a chance to steal carries from Jacquizz Rodgers. (Phil Sears)

Devonta Freeman has a chance to steal carries from Jacquizz Rodgers. (Phil Sears)

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with running back Devonta Freeman.

The Falcons selected Freeman in the fourth round (103rd overall) out of Florida State.

Atlanta has eight of its nine draft picks signed; only Dezmond Southward remains unsigned.

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Falcons Agree to Terms with Matthews, Hageman

Jake Matthews will step in and immediately improve Matt Ryan's protection. (Thomas Campbell)

Jake Matthews will immediately improve Matt Ryan’s protection. (Thomas Campbell)

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with its top two draft picks: offensive tackle Jake Matthews (sixth overall) and defensive tackle/end Ra’Shede Hageman (37th overall).

Atlanta also signed five other draft picks on Sunday: cornerback Ricardo Allen (147th overall) and linebackers Prince Shembo (139th overall), Marquis Spruill (168th overall), Yawin Smallwood (253rd overall), and Tyler Starr (255th overall).

Only safety Dezmond Southward (68th overall) and running back Devonta Freeman (103rd overall) remain unsigned.

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Review of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 NFL Draft

Getting "bigger and tougher" was the offseason's mantra. (John Bazemore)

Getting “bigger and tougher” was the offseason’s mantra. (John Bazemore)

The Atlanta Falcons had Super Bowl aspirations going into last season but fell well short with a 4-12 record.

The primary issues? Injuries, and toughness at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense

Quarterback Matt Ryan was hit a league-high – and career-high – 203 times last season. He was sacked 44 times – again, a career-high, and tied for third in the league.

The Falcons’ front office made it clear what the plans were for both the offseason and the draft: Protect the $100 million quarterback, and get tougher on both sides of the ball.

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Falcons to Exercise Fifth-Year Option For Julio Jones

It took a little while, but the Falcons exercised Julio Jones' fifth-year option. (Daniel Shirey)

It took a little while, but the Falcons exercised Julio Jones’ fifth-year option. (Daniel Shirey)

There was never any doubt.

The Atlanta Falcons will exercise wide receiver Julio Jones’ fifth-year option, ensuring he’ll be a member of the team through 2015.

What this means is Jones’ salary in 2015 will be the average of the top 10 players at his position.

Jones’ season was ended prematurely last season after just five games. During those five games, he hauled in 41 passes for 580 yards and two touchdowns – I’ll let you do the extrapolation work.

For his short, three-year career, Jones has caught 174 passes for 2,737 yards and 20 touchdowns. There’s little doubt he’s one of the top receivers in the league already.

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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Regular Season Schedule

Head coach Mike Smith is confident his Falcons will return to the playoffs this season. (Kevin C. Cox)

Head coach Mike Smith is confident his Falcons will return to the playoffs this season. (Kevin C. Cox)

The NFL regular season schedule for the 2014 season has been released.

After last season’s 4-12 campaign, the Atlanta Falcons have just two primetime games: Week 3 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football and Week 14 at the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

There’s also the London matchup in Week 8 against the Detroit Lions.

Here’s Atlanta’s schedule in its entirety:

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Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 Preseason Schedule

The NFL has released the preseason schedule for the 2014 NFL season.

Here are the Atlanta Falcons’ opponents:

Week 1: Miami Dolphins

Week 2: at Houston Texans

Week 3: Tennessee Titans

Week 4: at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Falcons have played the Jaguars every year since 2008 when Mike Smith became head coach, with 2009 being the lone exception.

The Dolphins have also consistently been preseason opponents.

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Falcons Sign CB Josh Wilson, S Dwight Lowery

Josh Wilson provides depth in Atlanta's secondary. (Scott Cunningham)

Josh Wilson provides depth in Atlanta’s secondary. (Scott Cunningham)

The Atlanta Falcons bolstered their secondary depth a bit, signing cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Dwight Lowery.

Wilson spent last season with the Washington Redskins. He started all 16 games, amassing 93 tackles, two sacks, one interception, and two forced fumbles.

He also was on the receiving end of a Steven Jackson touchdown run in Week 15.

Second-year players Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are locked in as the starting cornerbacks, so Wilson will likely compete with Robert McClain for the nickelback spot.

After releasing Thomas DeCoud, the Falcons had a gaping hole at free safety. An attempt to sign the New Orleans Saints’ restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush failed after the Saints matched the Falcons’ offer.

Lowery isn’t the answer at free safety, but he provides veteran depth. He spent last season on injured reserve after appearing in three games with the Jacksonville Jaguars, then was released on November 4.

Expect the Falcons to draft a safety in the draft.

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Falcons Awarded Three Compensatory Picks

The Falcons have three extra draft picks to work with. (Gary A. Vasquez)

The Falcons have three extra draft picks to work with. (Gary A. Vasquez)

The Atlanta Falcons were awarded three compensatory draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft: a fourth-rounder and two seventh-rounders.

The Falcons were given the extra draft picks based on last season’s free agent loses: cornerbacks Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins) and Chris Owens (Cleveland Browns), tackle Will Svitek (New England Patriots), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (Oakland Raiders).

As it stands now, the Falcons have 10 picks in the upcoming draft.

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Devin Hester Agrees to Three-Year Deal with Falcons

Devin Hester vastly upgrades the Falcons' return game. (Matthew Stockman)

Devin Hester vastly upgrades the Falcons’ return game. (Matthew Stockman)

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with return specialist Devin Hester on a three-year deal.

Hester was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round (57th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he set an NFL record with six return touchdowns, including a punt return for a touchdown in his debut.

The Falcons haven’t had a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown since 2010 – back with Eric Weems returning kicks.

Last season, Atlanta averaged 24.4 yards per kick return and 8.3 yards per punt return.

Hester will undoubtedly fix those woes – last season, he averaged 27.6 yards per kick return and 14.2 yards per punt return, including a touchdown.

He also holds the NFL record for most career kick and punt returns for touchdowns with 18.

He’s gained 5,504 yards on 222 kick returns and 3,241 yards on 264 punt returns. Yes, Hester’s markedly dangerous.

But don’t expect him to just return kicks:

For his career, Hester has totaled 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns.

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