The Falcons continued their trend of keeping their own on Friday when they announced the return of defensive end John Abraham.
Abraham, who enters his 13th season, will be back for the Falcons in 2012, picking up where he left off in his six-year career with the Falcons. During that time, he's not only been an impact player, but he's been climbing the charts among the franchise's all-time greats. The defensive end is a half sack away from passing Chuck Smith for second place on the Falcons' all-time sack leaders list.
ProFootballFocus.com listed Abraham as their No. 2 pass rusher available on the free agent market, behind the Buffalo Bills newest addition, Mario Williams. The website gave Abraham a 2011 grade of 37.8, an outstanding number that considers both the end's sacks and quarterback pressures. PFF.com credits Abraham with 119 total quarterback pressures in the last two seasons.
Around the NFL, Abraham is regarded as one of the best pass rushers of his generation. With the recent retirement of Jason Taylor, Abraham now ranks as the active sack leader among players still playing in the NFL with 112 career sacks. Since joining the Falcons, his 58.5 sacks ranks fifth in the league during that time.
Among the all-time greats, Abraham is rising there as well. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, only 27 players have recorded 100-or-more career sacks. In 2010, Abraham became the 25th player to reach that mark and his 12 since puts him at 16th place all time.
Under new coordinator Mike Nolan, it's safe to assume Abraham could continue to put up the numbers Falcons fans have gotten used to seeing. Aided by a health-friendly rotation system that head coach Mike Smith implemented for Abraham, the defensive end could pair with Nolan to utilize the coordinator's pressure-heavy system in a rotation at key moments in football games. When Abraham has had a multi-sack game for Atlanta, the team is 12-2.
While some question Abraham's age of 33 and wonder how much he has left after injuries have slowed him at different points during his career, one needs to only look at the end's production over the last five seasons in Atlanta. He's played in 78 of 80 regular season games and averaged just less than 11 sacks per season during that stretch.
History is on Abraham's side as he returns to Atlanta to finish what he began in 2006 and the Falcons welcome back one of the game's elite pass rushers.