Falcons Lock Up Safety Thomas DeCoud

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Thomas DeCoud #28 of the Atlanta Falcons enjoys a laugh in the final minutes of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

UPDATE: Adam Schefter reports the contract is five years, $17.5 million with $4 million in guaranteed money. At a rate of less than $4 million a season, not half bad.

With Michael Griffin off the market thanks to the franchise tag, the best free safety left was Thomas DeCoud. The Falcons wisely decided he was worth locking up.

Terms haven't come in yet, but the team reports that the Falcons and the 2008 third-round pick agreed on a multi-year deal. My guess is that he's being paid as a Top 20 safety and that the deal will carry him into his 30's, which I think is more than fair. DeCoud was going to have no shortage of offers had he made it to the open market, which I suspect has something to do with the timing of this contract.

Now, a few words about DeCoud.

DeCoud's solid in coverage for the most part, but he did grade out negatively in Pro Football Focus's rankings last year. He's also prone to taking the occasional bad angle to the receiver, and he and Dunta Robinson had more than one soul-sucking play in tandem thanks to terrible communication. I think that Mike Nolan can probably get even more out of him by emphasizing discipline, good angles and forcing Dunta to stop talking like a teacher from Charlie Brown.

The natural talent is certainly there. Watch DeCoud's end-zone interceptions from 2011 to get a sense of his athleticism, his awareness and his playmaking ability. If he can find consistency, he'll be a terrific asset in 2012 and beyond.

He's solid at run support, something the Falcons weren't going to get that if they had been able to go after Griffin. The team may have to take a hit on run-stopping up front in order to bring in elite pass rushers, so that's an important feature in a safety.

There will also be a crowd of Falcons fans who just don't like DeCoud and don't think he brings a lot to the table, and I understand that after watching a few egregiously bone-headed plays. But a well-rounded, young starting safety with considerable—if not entirely realized—upside is worth keeping around.

You've also got William Moore bringing his own brand of jarring hits and opportune picks to strong safety, so that's a nice 1-2 punch at safety.

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