The Falcons and Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension. Take a look back at his career so far with the Falcons.
In 2015, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks listed each football position by importance, from signal caller to return specialist. Ultimately, he placed a team's No. 1 cornerback as the fourth-most valuable spot, and he slotted the No. 2 cornerback role at 14th -- just ahead of right guard, No. 2 receiver, center and strong safety.
With two successive draft picks in 2013, the Falcons locked up that pair of jobs for the long-term.
Desmond Trufant (No. 22 overall) and Robert Alford (No. 60 overall) have formed one of the league's best CB duos in the last couple years. And now that each has signed a lengthy extension, that should remain the case for the foreseeable future.
"We are really happy to be able to get this extension done," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said this week about Trufant's new five-year deal. "Trufant has proven to be a valuable leader to our team, and embodies every trait that coach [Dan] Quinn and I are looking for from players that are a part of our brotherhood. Trufant has improved each year and we believe his best ball is still in front of him. We knew this extension was going to be a component to our offseason plan and I am excited with the way we have been able to execute our entire plan as we have built our roster."
Trufant, 26, emerged as one of the NFL's premier corners in 2015 en route to his first Pro Bowl nomination. That year, according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 32 catches on 56 targets -- a completion percentage of 57.1. By reeling in an interception and surrendering just 434 yards and two touchdowns, he held opponents to a modest 86.5 passer rating when throwing in his direction.
The University of Washington product continued to shine in 2016 until a shoulder injury cut his year short. It was a big loss, of course, but Trufant's absence gave Alford a chance to prove his worth in an expanded role.
As the veteran leader of Atlanta's secondary, Alford, 28, improved substantially as the Falcons made their Super Bowl push. This was evident in the way he cut down on penalties: Through Weeks 1 through 6, he was flagged 8 times, but for the rest of the season -- 10 regular-season matchups and three playoff contests -- he was penalized on just seven occasions.
His big-play ability was evident, too -- especially in SBLI, when he famously picked off Tom Brady and ran it back for a touchdown.
"It's the speed that he plays with out on the outside and the ability to match up on different guys," Quinn said when asked what makes Alford important to the defense. "We like the combination that we do with he and Desmond Trufant where they can both play outside.
"He's got the versatility to also play nickel and that's a big thing for he and Tru, where [opponents] don't always know where a guy's going to be and how we'll matchup on players. … He's had a real awareness for the football in terms of going after it and having a ball-hawking mentality, so those two things probably are the tops."
Having a lot of talent at corner is important in any situation, but it's particularly crucial in the high-powered NFC South. Though the Saints traded Brandin Cooks this offseason, Drew Brees showed in 2016 that he is still one of the best quarterbacks in football. Cam Newton is one year removed from an MVP campaign. And Jameis Winston, who now has DeSean Jackson to complement Mike Evans, is primed to take a big step forward next season.
As Quinn said many times last year, one of Atlanta's biggest goals is taking care of its division. With Trufant and Alford locked up, and with a lot of depth behind them, the Falcons are in position to meet that objective again -- and then some.
"The next step is just taking my game even higher," Trufant told ESPN. "It don't stop. I'm never satisfied. I'm always trying to improve my game. I'm always trying to get better. I'm always trying to get to the next level, no matter what's going on. I'm just continuing to do whatever I can to help my team get back to the [Super] Bowl. And I'm hungry to get back to that Super Bowl because I missed it."