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Falcons snag veteran wide receiver Andre Roberts, who will likely return kicks and punts

Meet the team’s new fourth or fifth receiver and core special teamer.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons like to have depth under Dan Quinn, even if that depth is at positions where they would seem to be ridiculously stacked. That’s why they’ve signed Andre Roberts at wide receiver when they have four capable or better options in front of him.

Roberts would be an interesting if forgettable signing as a sure-handed, capable veteran receiver if that’s the only reason he was joining the roster. With Eric Weems likely headed elsewhere, though, Roberts will also be competing for a job as the team’s kick and punt returner, likely with 2016 seventh rounder Devin Fuller. When you put those two skill sets together, you can understand why they might want to sign him.

How Roberts fits on the roster

When the Falcons need to go four wide, Roberts will find himself on the field on occasion. When there’s an injury, Roberts will dutifully fill in. He’ll likely pick up between 10-20 receptions on the year, a couple hundred yards, and maybe a touchdown or two. When you’re a team’s fifth receiver, that’s pretty good.

The more interesting subplot is that Roberts has significant return experience, and has been decent or better his entire career in that role. The Falcons are probably losing Weems, as I mentioned, and unless Devin Fuller can show them something as a receiver, they’re likely not keen to keep him as a return specialist. Roberts gives you a player that can fill multiple roles, and that is prized when you’re a reserve on this Falcons team.

Depth chart implications

As mentioned, he could be the team’s top returner, but he’s unlikely to be more than the fifth receiver on this depth chart. It’ll be interesting to see if he can challenge Justin Hardy for #4 duties, but given that Hardy came on a bit last year and is a very capable blocker, I’d doubt it. Let’s just hope he can give the team solid returns.

Welcome aboard, Andre Roberts!