FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons hope there is a new “Big Play Ray” in town.
Defensive end Ray Edwards agreed to terms on a five-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday. The original “Big Play Ray” is former defensive back Ray Buchanan, who played with the Falcons from 1997 to 2003, and was on the franchise’s only Super Bowl team.
One of the team’s glaring deficiencies has been the pass rush. They are hoping that Edwards will help close the gap on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC. They hope he will balance the field and provide a pass rush opposite of Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham.
On a day when the team released defensive end/tackle Jamaal Anderson, the Falcons reached a deal with Edwards. The former Purdue standout has 29 sacks in five seasons. He had eight sacks last season and 8.5 in 2009.
The Falcons were interested in Edwards after the draft. But they later cooled on him and pursued Carolina’s Charles Johnson. The Falcons backed out when the Panthers made a lucrative offer to Johnson, the former Georgia standout from Hawkinsville.
Entering free agency, Mel Kiper Jr. had Johnson as the top-rated defensive end available and Edwards was rated second.
“Finished second on the Vikings with eight sacks, teaming with Jared Allen to form one of the top pass rushing tandem at DE in the league,” Kiper wrote in his 2011 Free Agency Data Sheet. “But it was an uneven year for Edwards as he managed just 1.5 sacks in their first seven games.”
Kroy Biermann started at left defensive end last season and had three sacks. The Falcons also have Chauncey Davis, Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews and Emmanuel Stephens on the roster.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog