Originally created 02/20/00

Falcons sign free agent defensive end Brady Smith



SUWANEE, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons filled a couple of more holes Saturday, signing free agent defensive end Brady Smith and naming Jerry Rhome their quarterback coach.

Smith, who spent the last four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, should start on the Falcons' defensive line, once a strong spot that helped the team to its lone Super Bowl appearance two years ago.

Injuries and free agency have taken their toll, with both defensive ends, Chuck Smith and Lester Archambeau, expected to sign elsewhere. Chuck Smith has reportedly reached an agreement in principle with the Carolina Panthers.

"We've filled another one of the areas we wanted to address," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who also oversees personnel moves.

Terms of Brady Smith's deal were not announced.

The Falcons picked Rhome to replace Steve DeBerg, who was dismissed by Reeves following one season as quarterback coach.

Rhome, who was out of coaching last season after two years as offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, has a close relationship with Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler. They worked together with the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Oilers.

"He taught me how play the game," Chandler once said. "I'd be in the cheese line somewhere if he hadn't."

The signing of Smith left the Falcons with only enough room under the salary cap for the incoming rookie class, which means Saturday's announcement was probably the Falcons' last free-agent signing before the NFL draft.

"Taylor (Smith, the Falcons owner) said that's it," Reeves said.

Brady Smith, 24, took over as a starter before last season for the Saints. He finished with 33 tackles and six sacks, while forcing a fumble.

Reeves said Smith provides the Falcons with flexibility since he can play both right and left end. Plus, "his motor just doesn't quit, and he's shown improvement each year," the coach said.

Smith had spent his entire career with New Orleans. He said he also was courted by the AFC champion Tennesee Titans and the Denver Broncos, but Reeves' reputation as a winner finally attracted him to Atlanta.

"It was a pretty easy decision," said Smith, who is 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. "The main thing was working for good people like Dan, (defensive coordinator) Rich Brooks, and (defensive line coach) Bill Kollar."

Smith also he was called Friday by Ashley Ambrose, the former New Orleans cornerback who recently signed with the Falcons.

"It really shows that this is the place to be," Smith said.

Reeves said Smith got a glowing recommendation from former New Orleans coach Mike Ditka, who was fired by the Saints. Ditka played alongside Reeves on the Dallas Cowboys and served as an assistant with him under Tom Landry.

"It means a lot to have a coach who is no longer the coach talk well about him," Reeves said.

In another development, the Falcons said five players have been allocated to the NFL Europe league, including backup quarterback Tony Graziani to Barcelona. Cornerback Derrick Gardner was sent to Rhein, kicker Clay Rush to an undetermined team, tight end Brian Sexton to Frankfurt and linebacker Brian Smith to Scotland.