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Offseason Focus: Secondary


The secondary may hold as many questions as any other position group the Falcons must address this offseason. Of the 11 DBs on the roster, four are free agents, including two starters. The secondary helped the Falcons rank fourth in 2010 in the NFL in interceptions and they maintained a top-10 finish in 2011, finishing in a tie for sixth.

Starting cornerback and former Pro Bowler Brent Grimes is scheduled to hit free agency during the 2012 offseason. Injuries kept Grimes out of four games at the end of the season and into the playoffs and he only finished with one interception, down from five the previous season. Although Grimes' interceptions were down, he still played at a high level. After making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Grimes has started 42 games in his five seasons with Atlanta.

The starter opposite Grimes, Dunta Robinson, signed a six-year contract as a free agent in 2010. His deal will run through the 2015 season.

In Grimes' absence this season, Dominique Franks and Chris Owens rotated as the starter and the nickel cornerback. Franks, a 2010 draft pick is signed through 2013 and Owens, a 2009 third-round pick, is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of next season.

Veteran Kelvin Hayden joined the team after training camp and became a starter at nickel corner in the second week of the season. Injuries derailed Hayden's season and limited him to only eight games. He will be a free agent this offseason.

One of the surprise additions to the active roster out of training camp was rookie corner Darrin Walls. Walls joined the team as an undrafted free agent and made the team after a solid camp. He appeared in five games this season and had one interception. His contract is currently undisclosed.

The safety position holds the other two free agent defensive backs for the Falcons this offseason: Thomas DeCoud, a starter for three seasons with Atlanta, and James Sanders.

DeCoud, a 2008 draft pick, had four interceptions in 2011 and has eight in his four seasons. Sanders was added to the roster to provide veteran experience after training camp. He served as an emergency starter for the Falcons this season, playing both safety positions and starting in six games.

William Moore, the starter opposite DeCoud, is currently on a four-year contract that expires after the 2012 season.

Backup safety and key special teams player, Shann Schillinger, just finished the second year of his four-year rookie contract.

Suaesi Tuimaunei spent the 2011 season as a practice squad player for Atlanta. He recently signed a reserve/future contract to re-join the team when the league year begins in March.

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