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.”
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