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Terron Ward, Adrian Clayborn among former Falcons reaching free agency

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It’s a new day in Atlanta as free agency opens.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Terron Ward, over the last three seasons, managed to find a way onto the field no matter how hard the Falcons seemingly tried to replace him. He typically fared well in those games too, as his hard-charging style led to some nice runs and he threw the occasional nice block. That’s all you can expect out of your #3 back, and Ward consistently delivered.

That’s why it’s sort of a surprise to see Ward reach the open market. The Falcons had the opportunity to extend tenders to him, wide receiver Nick Williams, and safety Sharrod Neasman, and elected to bring none of them back. They did tender Ricardo Allen and Ben Garland at the second round level. Terrence Magee, who was listed as a restricted free agent in multiple media reports but was not listed in the NFL’s list of free agents by team, is an early contender for third back duties in 2018.

In Williams’ case, it’s not a surprise given that he’s essentially functioned as the fifth or sixth receiver for years now, and he’ll likely head to San Francisco to re-join Kyle Shanahan soon. Sharrod Neasman is a mild surprise, given that he was an exclusive rights free agent, but the team seems likely to either promote Marcelis Branch or use a late round draft choice on a developmental prospect. It’s Ward that surprises me, because the Falcons now go from having an experienced, reliable third back to potentially Magee or a rookie, and both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman have dealt with injury issues in recent years.

Here’s the full list of players who reached free agency. The Falcons will look to cheaply replace many of them, but will need to use draft picks or real FA dollars to replace the likes of Clayborn, Shelby, Poe, and Coleman.

  • RB Terron Ward
  • FB Derrick Coleman
  • WR Andre Roberts
  • WR Taylor Gabriel (Bears)
  • WR Nick Williams
  • TE Levine Toilolo (Cut)
  • G Jamil Douglas
  • DE Adrian Clayborn
  • DE Courtney Upshaw
  • DE Derrick Shelby (Cut)
  • DT Dontari Poe
  • DT Ahtyba Rubin
  • LB LaRoy Reynolds
  • LB Sean Weatherspoon
  • LB Kemal Ishmael
  • LB Jordan Tripp
  • S Sharrod Neasman