UPDATE: Falcons sign Hayden, Sanders to 1-year deals

Rex Grossman's misfortune culminated with a game-clinching interception return by Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden early in the fourth quarter. Kelvin Hayden (26) istepped in front of Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad to make the play, then returned the ball 56 yards for the game's final points in Super Bowl XLI. (Associated Press)

Rex Grossman's misfortune culminated with a game-clinching interception return by Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden early in the fourth quarter. Kelvin Hayden (26) istepped in front of Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad to make the play, then returned the ball 56 yards for the game's final points in Super Bowl XLI. (Associated Press)

UPDATE: 6:10 P.M.

The Falcons announced the signing of safety James Sanders and cornerback Kelvin Hayden before facing the Baltimore Ravens in their exhibition season finale at the Georgia Dome on Thursday.

“As [coach] Mike Smith and I have said, we will always look to upgrade and fortify our roster,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who worked for the Patriots when Sanders was drafted. “We believe that James can be a fine addition to this football team and this defense. He is a tough, hard-nosed football player who has a really fine understanding of the game. He comes from a historic winning organization. He will be a fine addition to this team.”

PREVIOUS POST

The Falcons, perhaps moved by a shaky performance of their secondary in the key third exhibition game against Pittsburgh, have agreed to terms with another defensive back.

Kelvin Hayden, 28, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, is set to sign a one-year deal with the Falcons, a day after they agreed to terms with safety James Sanders, the team has confirmed Thursday. Both are expected to sign today.

Hayden, 28, was a second-round pick in the 2005 draft. He has played in 76 games and made 46 starts. He has nine career interceptions.

They Falcons did not address their secondary in the draft or in free agency. But before training camp started on July 29, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff stated that the team would be on the prowl for “salary cap casualties.”

 Hayden and Sanders both fit that profile.

Hayden was set to make $8.6 million this season, but was recently cut by the Colts. Sanders was set to make $2.8 million, but was recently cut by the New England Patriots.

Hayden, a 5-foot-10, 198-pounder, has battled injuries over the last two seasons. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2007.

Both moves are designed to improve the Falcons’ pass defense, which was ranked 22nd in the league in 2011. In the game against Pittsburgh last Saturday, they gave up touchdown passes of 77 and 44 yards.

The Falcons acquired Dunta Robinson in a major free-agent signing last season. He signed a six-year deal worth $57 million. He has missed most of the exhibition season for the second consecutive year because of a hamstring injury.

The Falcons are solid at left cornerback with Brent Grimes, who played in the Pro Bowl last season.

However, Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens are in a battle for the nickel back position. Hayden figures to contend for the starting nickel back spot.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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140 comments Add your comment

SK

September 1st, 2011
7:01 am

Bring Deion back …

punjabiinatl

September 1st, 2011
7:02 am

nice move, ………… !

FalconUGAFan

September 1st, 2011
7:10 am

Good to see some movement in the secondary. Sorely needed….

cdog

September 1st, 2011
7:11 am

take notes rick sund. the falcons have a quality GM who wants to win a superbowl instead of your attitude just to show up and save money.if dimitroff was with the hawks, he would have brought in dwight howard.until then, the hawks will suffer with sund.

Kurtis

September 1st, 2011
7:11 am

Great!!!! He HAS to be an imiprovement.

Kurtis

September 1st, 2011
7:12 am

‘improvement’

Paddy

September 1st, 2011
7:14 am

True to TD’s words during the summer. We will look for player cuts during camp. You can’t fix every roster problem but if you have a plan your team . Who saw Dunta being such a blow out?

PlanB

September 1st, 2011
7:14 am

Let’s hope Hayden is that CB we need and stays healthy. Good to know that when most of us are in agreement of needs that TD has been thinking the same for awhile and going out and getting one. How good is this guy supposed to be when healthy?

Paddy

September 1st, 2011
7:14 am

“your team will improve”

FAlcons24

September 1st, 2011
7:18 am

I like this, they are moving in the right direction. Atleast, they acknowledge the weakness of the team. Good Fit!

mississippiPimpin

September 1st, 2011
7:21 am

did we sign him to take dunta’s spot?

Greg

September 1st, 2011
7:24 am

How about let’s all reserve judgment. “Hayden, a 5-foot-10, 198-pounder, has battled injuries over the last two seasons. ” Mmmm. If he’s healthy, good move. If not….

HJones

September 1st, 2011
7:29 am

Does anyone know what the injuries have been?

Jason

September 1st, 2011
7:31 am

This looks to me like Owens is going to get cut. I would speculate that Owens is gone and Franks will have one more year to develop. Neither one really showed they are ready for the role, which is why they signed Hayden.

nhe

September 1st, 2011
7:34 am

@Jason – I hope you’re right……….we can’t put Owens on the field and call ourselves a SB contender

rm

September 1st, 2011
7:42 am

I hope this guy can play. Owens has to go.

kudzu

September 1st, 2011
7:44 am

cut Daunte now…what a joke…

suwaneefalcon

September 1st, 2011
7:45 am

One thing about TD, if it needs fixin’ he does it. I to believe Owens is gone. I like adding veterans to this secondary, we need them.

kudzu

September 1st, 2011
7:45 am

Dunte…whatever

suwaneefalcon

September 1st, 2011
7:47 am

Kudzu, change your name to manure. You spread sh*t not plant life.

Jimmy Crack

September 1st, 2011
7:49 am

A far cry from Ken Herock and Rich McKay. We need something and TD gets it. Good for Coach as well, giving these young DBs plenty of chances to make the grade (even if they didn’t). This was no knee jerk reaction, as we all know.

Willie Coyote

September 1st, 2011
7:50 am

Good moves for added depth and competition.

Contrary to what many think about the Falcon’s draft strategy this year, the areas of need on defense, CB & DE, were not going to be filled by a rookie drafted in the low first round or second round. Veterans are a better solution for those areas because those are two positions that seem to have the biggest learning curve in the pros. If they were going to get a game changer in the draft at DE (I don’t think there was one in this draft) or CB, they would have had to trade up similarly to what they did to draft Julio anyway.

Queensbridge

September 1st, 2011
7:52 am

What a waste Dunta has been…and when he does play he struggles to even be average. Maybe if he cuts his locks the the decrease in poundage may alleviate his hamstring issues.

Mike is Back

September 1st, 2011
7:52 am

DLed, Good Stuff, we needed some vets to help our young guys out. I would still like to see all the DB positions open for completion…both these guys got potential to be starters.
TD, U THA MANN…word up!!

GDawg

September 1st, 2011
8:00 am

Good for a backups not a starters come on people believe in our own first, before you believe in someone else’s cuts. Because if they were that good they would still be there.

SeenThisB4

September 1st, 2011
8:03 am

Just another mark for Drew to victimize, …again.

longtimefan

September 1st, 2011
8:05 am

Long time reader. I enjoy your in depth coverage and writing style, Dled.

mitch (the one in Rome)

September 1st, 2011
8:10 am

Don’t understand the hate on Dunta. He played a solid corner and so did Grimes. It’s a team game and pass rush or lack thereof affects DB’s. You can’t pin pass defense completely on the CB’s. They played well considering we could not get QB’s on the ground or rushed consistently. When we did get a good rush it made a difference.
One of the reasons I love the game is because it’s 11 moving parts on each side of the ball and each one has to be perfect for the whole to function at an elite level. That takes practice and tweaking. If we get pressure, we’ll have two pro-bowl corners this year. Watch it. Believe it.

The Real Falcon

September 1st, 2011
8:13 am

GDawg with a dose of reality.

dawgforlife

September 1st, 2011
8:15 am

Dunta played very solid corner for the Falcons last year. He just apparently doesn’t like training camp. He will not be cut; but, if he were, around 25-28 other teams would love to have him. Our starting corners are sound. It comes apart with the depth for four and five receiver sets. That depth is what TD is addressing now. I can’t wait for the season to start….btw, does anyone know who got the axe to make room for Hayden and Sanders?

D man

September 1st, 2011
8:19 am

Thomas – thanks for doing something about our terrible defensive backfield. These moves should be better than what we got. I agree that Owens isn’t cutting it. Dunta needs to get healthy and get back on the field.

Let’s see what they can do this Thursday night. GO FALCONS!!!

Pool guy

September 1st, 2011
8:21 am

Finally, a vet with a ring. Hope its the missing piece.

B-man

September 1st, 2011
8:26 am

Dunta is a solid player. The critics obviously do not know/ understand football. No he is not Deion or Revis…but neither is any other cornerback in the game.

Falcon James

September 1st, 2011
8:33 am

I starting to feel better about the falcon now. To be honest I was beginning to think Smith and Dimmotroph thought that there was nothing wrong with the secondary; With these two add ons, we don’t have to worry about owens and franks giving up so many big plays. Lets just hope that Dunte sees the writing on the wall and step it this year. All Grimes need to do is bring it again like last year. Too bad Grimes can’t cover everybody.

Big Hurt

September 1st, 2011
8:34 am

From what I saw in the limited time he got in preseason, I was thoroughly impressed (especially the first exhibition game) with Darrin Walls out of Notre Dame… I guess he has shown differently in practice?

GDawg

September 1st, 2011
8:37 am

We improved the pass rush guys this will help the secondary. If Dunta was so bad last year then why did Grimes have so many ints, because qbs were not throwing to Dunta’s side.

dean

September 1st, 2011
8:38 am

Mitch in Rome gets it.

Some people don’t understand that if the Falcons put the GB QB on the ground when he was in their sights-on numerous occasions-that game is different. A QB that can put the ball through a needle’s eye only needs another second to make a DB look bad.

huh?

September 1st, 2011
8:41 am

If you get the news Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, does it really matter? I love the Falcons but have many other more important things in my life than to scour the internet for news. And, probably unlike most of you, have had season tickets for 20 years.

huh?

September 1st, 2011
8:43 am

Dunta is a much better than average cornerback – I would argue that last year it took a while to recover from the collision with DeSean Jackson. Let’s let him play…

Steve-O

September 1st, 2011
8:44 am

mississippiPimpin

September 1st, 2011
7:21 am

did we sign him to take dunt
_________________________________________________________________________________

Look at Dunta’s stats last year before you open that hole in your face. The ignorant think that a CB’s success is measured ONLY in INTs. I do seem to remember that Dunta laid the hammer on DeSean Jackson and put him out of the game in Philly. Also, Dunta didn’t get the picks because the opposing QBs stayed away from his side of the field, and Grimes benefited with 5 INTs of his own. We need less BS opinion and more fact on these blogs. It’s embarrassing.

Big Dude

September 1st, 2011
8:46 am

This can only be an improvement for the secondary. Hope they can stay healthy and make a positive impact.

Dejay

September 1st, 2011
8:48 am

I feel ya, Cdog. And folks outside of town wonder why so few people want to attend their games when Kobe or Team Voltron isn’t here.

Say what you want about their lack of playoff success, no one can say that the Falcons aren’t doing everything they can to get the brass ring. They could’ve easily pulled the same ‘well, we won the division and went 13-3, isn’t that good enough for you people’ line the folks who use to run the Hawks (yes, Mr. Gearon, I’m talking to you) loved to trot out. One wants to win a Super Bowl, the other wants to make $$$ by simply getting to the playoffs. It will interesting to see what the new guy will do to spur interest; if we see basketball anytime soon.

Anyway, a good move by the Falcons. They saw a glaring need and did something about it instead of hoping/wishing/dreaming/praying that it just goes away like a bad rash. Hopefully, he and Sanders will stay healthy (as do the rest of the team)…

JONESBORO SLIM

September 1st, 2011
8:49 am

I like the move …good job Thomas….to all the Dunta haters understand the game before making dumb comments…finally I think the only thing the Birds have to worry about will be teams trying to throw underneath…the secondary looks ok now

SirReal

September 1st, 2011
8:50 am

I like the moves. Sanders is VERY solid and hopefully will push DeCoud as the season goes on. Hayden wasnt too shabby either…they just didnt want to pay him. He’s a good addition depth wise. I like the fact that the brass is trying to address holes. Im glad everyone is over the doom and gloom of the PRE-season Pittsburgh game. Trust me….the Bears dont know whats coming.

DC Dirty Bird

September 1st, 2011
8:50 am

The people which currently criticize Syntax for his contract and play are the same people who wanted us ti hold onto Brooking for as long as we did. You can’t “stat watch” a corner to know his value.

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 1st, 2011
8:52 am

GREAT SINGING DIMITROFF THATS WHAT I’M TALKING GO FALCON’S!!!!!!

Steve

September 1st, 2011
8:53 am

Everyone likes the scrappy play and all the INT’s Grimes provides, me too! Now ask yourself WHY is he getting so much oppertunity from oposing QB’s??? Is it that he’s 5′6″??? That may be part of it but oposing QB’s try his side more so they don’t have to throw to Duante’s side of the field. I’m not saying he’s a shut down corner like Deion but rather he’s getting less chances because Grimes gets overlooked. I like our starting DB tandem and if Duante’ can stay healthy and the safeties be in the right position to make plays the nickle will be our biggest question. Hopefully that is taken care of now.

DC Dirty Bird

September 1st, 2011
8:54 am

Great point Slim. Because we play a lot of zone defense we still may be susceptible to traditional west coast offense underneath passes. Hopefully our younger LB corp can do the job in coverage.

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 1st, 2011
8:55 am

Great moves for the ATLANTA FALCONS good job Dimitroff someone finally hears me!!!!1

joe white

September 1st, 2011
8:56 am

I said sign this man like a month ago and by now he would have been up to speed in our system, nice move to sign both of them. Hayden will have the nickel spot for sure. Now barring no serious injuries we ready to make that run