The last man Vic Beasley passed on the franchise’s all-time sack leaderboard before the team aggressively published a report that they wouldn’t be trying to re-sign him was Brady Smith. That name likely rings a bell for any fans who have been into the Falcons since the early 2000s or earlier, but more recent fans may not know Smith and older fans may have forgotten about his contributions to the franchise.
That’s what a Forgotten Falcons article is for, right? Smith was the bookend to the more well-known and productive Patrick Kerney for five out of his six seasons in Atlanta, but that tandem was a terrific one that combined for 73.5 sacks from 2000-2004. Smith is still 6th all-time on the franchise sack leaderboard and is one of the greatest Saints-to-Falcons success stories in team history, so his contributions to the team make him worth remembering even if he he was overshadowed in his own time by Kerney and shortly thereafter by the great John Abraham.
Let’s remember Brady Smith.
Time in Atlanta: 2000-2005
Statistics as a Falcon: 81 games, 78 starts, 176 tackles, 32 sacks, 46 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 defensive touchdowns
What he’s best known for: Being a consistent force for good in the Falcons pass rush
Smith was originally drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, who promptly squandered his talents. He had a combined 7 sacks on just two starts in 1996 and 1997, meaning he incredibly had as many kick returns (yes, really) as he did games started over that span. He wouldn’t become a full-time starter in New Orleans until 1999, when he started all 16 games and managed 6 sacks. I miss the incompetence of those mid-to-late 90s Saints very much, but Smith decided he didn’t want to endure it any longer and left in free agency to sign with the Falcons.
This would turn out to be a fateful decision. Smith was an immediate contributor for an awful Falcons team that floundered with a 35-year-old Chris Chandler under center, paving the way for them to draft Michael Vick the next year. That wasn’t Smith’s fault, as he tied for the team lead in sacks and started 14 games opposite Kerney, who would have his last quiet year as a pass rusher before blossoming into the terror Falcons fans fondly remember. The team’s success would seesaw over the next few years, but Kerney and Smith were reliable sources of sacks and pressure throughout.
Smith enjoyed his best season in Atlanta in 2001, putting up 8 sacks in 15 games. He’d put up 6.5 the next year as the Falcons made the playoffs and was a nuisance in Atlanta’s stunning blowout of the Green Bay Packers, sacking Brett Favre once. His production dipped a bit in 2004 as he recorded just 4 sacks, but then he’d enjoy another terrific year in 2004 as the team again returned to the postseason, managing 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, his sole career interception and two defensive touchdowns, keeping the good times rolling in the team’s playoff destruction of the Rams with another sack.
Smith would finish up an injury-marred 2005 by playing 5 games and managing 3 sacks before hanging up his cleats. For his Falcons career, Smith finished with 32 sacks with the Falcons (which was 4th in team history at the time) and 45 sacks overall. The fact that he had all of his best years after leaving New Orleans and was a consistently disruptive player against his old team during his time in Atlanta is, of course, a nice bonus.
That’s a rock solid, consistent career that Smith carved out over a decade in the league, providing the kind of consistent pressure and production that the Falcons sorely need from their defensive ends today but rarely actually get. That makes his time in Atlanta well worth remembering.