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L.J Smith says he's going to Atlanta


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Smith says he's going to Atlanta

March 14, 2009 5:27 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

It's been some time since his visit, but it looks like free-agent tight end L.J. Smith will sign with the Atlanta Falcons.

At least that's what Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Brookover on Friday. He said he expects the deal to be finalized in the next few days.

That would be good news for the Falcons who have had a very quiet start to free agency. Signing Smith would bring the one upgrade the coaching staff wants for the offense. That's a pass-catching tight end to go with receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins.

Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan rarely threw to his tight ends last season and the Falcons want to give him another toy to work with. Smith caught 37 passes, including three touchdowns, for Philadelphia last season. Smith, 28, previously had two seasons where he caught at least 50 passes.

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey isn't likely to look for 50 catches out of Smith. But having him catch 30 to 40 passes would be a major boost to the offense and Ryan.

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Eagles' Jackson: 'It will be very different'

By Bob Brookover

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

DELAND, Fla. – Several Eagles - and now former Eagles - gathered here today to help Tra Thomas raise money at his charity golf tournament at the Victoria Hills Golf Club.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb could not make it, but sent Thomas a text message with his good wishes.

Running back Brian Westbrook was here. Other than saying that his surgically repaired left knee was doing well, Westbrook refused to talk about anything football related, including the departure of Thomas and safety Brian Dawkins.

Eagles Jamaal Jackson, Todd Herremans, Juqua Parker and Kevin Kolb were here, too. Also on hand was L.J. Smith, who said he expects to have a contract with the Atlanta Falcons within a few days.

Jackson and Herremans played on the offensive line with Thomas and Jon Runyan, whose future with the Eagles is uncertain because he is recovering from knee surgery and is a free agent. The Eagles signed free agent tackle Stacy Andrews, brother of guard Shawn Andrews.

"From my perspective, it will be very different," Jackson said. "You're talking about the two bookends – Tra was here 11 years and Jon played in 190-something straight games – so you're going to miss that. There's going to be an adjustment period."

Herremans, who said he doesn't know if he'll remain at left guard or move to left tackle next season, agreed that it will be odd without Thomas and Runyan around.

"I've been sitting next to Tra, practicing next to Tra, looking at Tra and messing with Tra every day at practice for the last four years, so it's going to be tough," Herremans said. "But this was going to happen sooner or later. We knew this day would come. The thing the Eagles have done well is they've made our inside (offensive line) core pretty young. I think they saw this coming with the older guys . . . and I think they prepared for it by getting us in the mix."

With the expected return of Shawn Andrews from back surgery and the addition of Stacy Andrews, Herremans said the Eagles have the makings of an improved offensive line.

"I think so," Herremans said. "Stacy is a good player and they're both tremendous athletes. I think we're making the right moves."

Jackson, the Eagles' center, said he understands why people are so attached to the Eagles' veteran players.

"Dawkins had been a pillar in the community and in the organization for so many years, so you feel a little sadness," Jackson said of Dawkins, who signed with Denver. "But with their departure, another star can emerge. I was on the team when Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent were playing corner. Once those guys left, Sheldon (Brown) and Lito (Sheppard) got a chance to play. I've seen these things happen in a positive way, but it also can backfire."

In a way, this weekend is a long goodbye for Thomas, who was selected by the Eagles in the first round of the 1998 draft and protected McNabb's blind side most of the time since. With the Eagles showing little interest in re-signing the 34-year-old tackle, Thomas signed a three-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is about 100 miles away.

In addition to his golf tournament, Thomas is staging a charity basketball game today and a barbecue tomorrow.

"It's a change of guard," Thomas said of the Eagles off-season changes. "I don't know how it's all going to play out."

Thomas again said he thinks the Eagles gave up on him too soon.

"I wanted to stay," Thomas said. "I really wanted to stay in Philly, but it's not always up to me. Coming out of college, Philly was the team I wanted to play for and that was the city I wanted to retire in. I just never thought I'd be wearing a different logo on my helmet. I always thought I'd have those Eagle wings.

"I'm going to miss those guys. I've been battling with them for a lot of years now. We've been through a lot of good battles. I wish I could have been on the team that brought the city a ring. I just wish everybody much success. I don't want them to win a ring next year without me, but I just wish the organization much success."

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If we sign Smith we should be pretty much set on offense, time to draft heavy on the defensive side of the ball.

Do you think we're set in terms of OL depth? I'm not being skeptical I'm seriously asking...

I know alot ppl feel like LJ never fulfilled his potential, but honestly, were they expecting too much. If he comes in and catches 30-40 passes and even if avg's only like 8 ypc... thats still going to be a tremendous impact on this offense that is already lethal. How many other offenses in the NFL would you want over ours??

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Do you think we're set in terms of OL depth? I'm not being skeptical I'm seriously asking...

I know alot ppl feel like LJ never fulfilled his potential, but honestly, were they expecting too much. If he comes in and catches 30-40 passes and even if avg's only like 8 ypc... thats still going to be a tremendous impact on this offense that is already lethal. How many other offenses in the NFL would you want over ours??

Romberg will back-up McClure, I can see us spending a mid-rounder on a possible back-up to Sam Baker at left tackle or we may just retain Gandy for that role. I think Romberg might have played some guard also.

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Do you think we're set in terms of OL depth? I'm not being skeptical I'm seriously asking...

I know alot ppl feel like LJ never fulfilled his potential, but honestly, were they expecting too much. If he comes in and catches 30-40 passes and even if avg's only like 8 ypc... thats still going to be a tremendous impact on this offense that is already lethal. How many other offenses in the NFL would you want over ours??

I dont feel like we are hurting as much as some think O-Line wise............ We have C/G Brett Romberg and dont forget about RT/LT Renardo Foster...... We also have Alex Stepanovich and Ben Wilkerson..... We will draft a OT and i know that we will sigm a UFA O-Lineman also

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