Released earlier this week by New England, James Sanders actually started most of last season at safety for the Patriots. He recorded 68 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed, flashing above-average coverage skills for a safety. Sanders will now ply his trade in Atlanta, after the Falcons worked him out Tuesday and offered him a one-year deal.
Both sides win big here. Sanders gets a deal that allows him to build up his market value while fulfilling, at minimum, a backup role for a contender. With Thomas DeCoud scrapping a little bit in pre-season and the nickel back spot basically unsettled, Sanders will get some playing time. Even if he's a true reserve, he can't help but get snaps as the top option behind both safety spots.
The Falcons win by shoring up a shaky depth chart at safety. Before, if either DeCoud or William Moore went down, the Falcons would have to rely on Shann Schillinger or Rafael Bush, both of whom are young, raw dudes with little-to-no game experience. Now they have a safety who was good enough to start for an elite NFL team as the top backup, at the very least. It's an enormous upgrade.
We'll get to see more from him in the days ahead, but I'll just say it now: I love this signing. I've had the chance to see him play over the last few years, and he's quite good in coverage, especially for a safety. I'm trying to avoid outright fawning over the guy, but there's absolutely no downside to Sanders.
This means that either Darrin Walls or Rafael Bush will likely make the team as a fifth defensive back type, but not both. That'll be a battle to watch in the last pre-season game, but frankly, what matters is that the Falcons are better this evening than they were this morning. You can't say that every day.
Let us know what you think of Sanders.