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Falcons invest to get physical

The SportsXchange

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Tyson Jackson said defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will bring a whole mess of new looks as he assembles many fresh faces on a depth chart that expanded in more ways than one Tuesday.

Jackson, a 3-4 defensive end with the Kansas City Chiefs, and nose tackle Paul Soliai, another graduate of a three-man alignment with the Miami Dolphins, expand the options for Nolan and head coach Mike Smith as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches.

The Falcons re-signed defensive tackles Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux and offensive linemen Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson, shoring up two primary areas of focus.

Former Kansas City Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah, Jackson and Soliai were introduced Wednesday in conference calls with media.

"We were focused on adding pieces along our offensive and defensive lines and I feel we were able to accomplish that today," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "We believe that Paul and Tyson will add stoutness and grittiness to our defensive front and will help in the run game. Jon is a solid offensive lineman that has started 41 games during his four-year career that will bring some ruggedness to our offensive front."

Asamoah and Jackson were drafted by Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who was the Chiefs' general manager in 2010. Asamoah, 6-feet-4, 304 pounds, was taken in the third round (68th overall).

Jackson, 6-4, 296 pounds, was originally selected by the Chiefs in the first round (third overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft out of LSU. He has appeared in 74 games with 55 starts and tallied 190 tackles (138 solo), nine sacks, 12 passes defensed, along with 21 quarterback pressures in his five-year NFL career.

Soliai said Wednesday his toughness was adapting from playing rugby. The Falcons are counting on him throwing his 330-pound frame around. He will earn $11 million in the first year of his five-year deal.

He played under Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for two seasons in Miami (2010-11) when the Dolphins boasted one of the top defensive units in the NFL. In 2011, Soliai earned his first career Pro Bowl selection as part of a defense that ranked third against the run, allowing 95.6 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.

Asamoah, who turns 26 in July, could fill the hole at right guard, where the Falcons have struggled to find a suitable option.

The Falcons have not commented about free agency recently and have declined several interview requests.

Garrett Reynolds, who was released by the Falcons, opened the past three seasons as the starting right guard. He was not able to hold down the position.

Pioli was fired and joined the Falcons as the assistant general manager in January. Pioli, who was fired by the Chiefs last year and watched the team roll to the playoffs with a lot of his players, spent last season out of football working in the media.

Asamoah played at Illinois and started 41 of 59 games with the Chiefs.

Johnson was set to become the starting right tackle last season. With Johnson, Asamoah and the return of left tackle Sam Baker from injury, the Falcons will have a revamped offensive line. Hawley battled it out with Peter Konz for the center position and started seven games.

The Falcons could also draft one of the highly coveted tackles in the draft with the sixth overall pick May 8.

"We are pleased to add Paul, Tyson and Jon to our roster," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Paul has played for Coach Nolan in Miami and is familiar with our scheme, and Tyson is a good football player that will fit with what we want to do defensively as well. Jon is a physical, experienced offensive lineman that will add a veteran presence to our offensive line."


Tight end: The Falcons released tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is set to retire and join the TV booth next season. They don't have an experienced tight end on the roster.

Free safety: Thomas DeCoud was also released. His poor angles and lack of toughness will no longer be tolerated. The Falcons will sift through the leftovers in free agency and perhaps look to the draft to find a replacement.

Tackle: Both tackles Sam Baker and Mike Johnson are coming back from surgery. The team is a prime draft country to land a great tackle prospect.

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