Falcons to sign free agent TE L.J. Smith?

According to a report by the National Football Post, the Falcons have set their eyes on free agent L.J. Smith (Eagles), who became the best tight end on the market after the Titans placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bo Scaife.

The Falcons brought in several run-blocking tight ends last offseason, but need to give quarterback Matt Ryan a better pass-catching target at the position. Smith has been unable to stay healthy the past two years, but he certainly has the size, speed and hands to upgrade the tight end spot and as long as the Falcons don’t overpay, he could be a quality signing.

One notion surrounding Atlanta’s interest in Smith is that Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, who is arguably the best tight end prospect in the draft and a player many mocks have the Falcons taking at No. 24, hurt his stock when he only ran a 4.8-forty at the scouting combine. But the more realistic idea is that the Falcons want to shore up their need for a pass-catching tight end before the draft, so then in April they can turn their sole attention to the multiple holes they have on defense.

The Falcons have decided not to re-sign safety Lawyer Milloy and outside linebacker Keith Brooking. They might allow outside linebacker Michael Boley to walk in free agency and might not be able to re-sign cornerback Domonique Foxworth, leaving them with holes at both linebacker spots, safety and cornerback.

Atlanta was able to re-sign Coy Wire, who replaced Boley towards the end of the 2008 season, but he’s more of a two-down ‘backer and was often replaced in passing situations. The team is also expected to give second-year player Stephen Nicholas a shot to earn one of the starting outside linebacker spots, but even with him and Wire, the Falcons are awfully thin at the position.

If the Falcons are able to wrangle Smith off the open market, there’s a great chance they’ll address one of their defensive needs in the first round, and could even fill defensive needs in the first three rounds. USC linebacker Brian Cushing, Ole’ Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry, Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith and Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas are all possibilities for the Falcons in the first round.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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