The Atlanta Falcons have featured some iconic NFL legends throughout their history. But they’ve also rostered some players that most fans don’t associate with the team. Here are five players you may have forgotten played for the Falcons.
5. Osi Umenyiora, 2013-2014
Umenyiora was a second-round pick by the New York Giants in 2003, and spent 10 years in the Big Apple. Teammate Michael Strahan may own the team record for career sacks (141.5), but Umenyiora’s feat of six sacks vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 has been matched by only three other players in NFL history. Umenyiora totaled 75 sacks with the Giants, making two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, and winning two Super Bowls. In 2013, he signed with the Falcons for $8.6 million over two years, collecting 7.5 sacks in his first season and 2.5 in 2014, when he played as a reserve. Umenyiora signed a one-day contract to retire as a Giant in 2015.
4. Dwight Freeney, 2016
The 11th overall pick in 2002, Freeney had a very good career with the Indianapolis Colts, logging 107.5 sacks and 113 tackles for loss over 11 seasons, making seven Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and winning one Super Bowl. In 2013, he signed a two-year deal with the San Diego Chargers, but managed just four sacks over 20 games in California. He spent a year with the Arizona Cardinals, logging eight sacks in a nice rebound effort. He then moved on to Atlanta, where he contributed three sacks during the regular season, and sacked Tom Brady once during Super Bowl LI, a game that Falcons fans have tried so hard to forget. Freeney spent 2017 with the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, signing a one-day contract to retire as a Colt after the season.
3. Steven Jackson, 2013-2014
Overshadowed by the plethora of fantastic running backs throughout the 2000’s, Jackson was an excellent runner in his own right. The 24th overall selection in 2004, Jackson spent a year as Marshall Faulk’s backup before rushing 1,046 yards in his first season as a starter in 2005. In his nine years with the St. Louis Rams, Jackson ran for 10,138 yards and 56 touchdowns. He was also a threat in the passing game, catching a career-high 90 passes for 806 yards in 2006.
In 2013, he left for Atlanta, signing a three-year deal with the Falcons. At the age of 30, Jackson was on the tail end of his career, and it showed in his play. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry with the Falcons, down from 4.2 with the Rams. During his two seasons in Atlanta, Jackson totaled 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns, and was released after 2014.
He joined the New England Patriots in 2015, playing a very small role with the team, and scoring his first career playoff touchdown as the Pats fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. He officially retired with the Rams in 2019, capping one of the more underrated careers in recent history.
2. Eric Dickerson, 1993
Dickerson is best known for holding the single-season rushing record, as he put up 2,105 yards in 1984. But he bounced around a bit during the latter half of his career, ultimately winding up with the Falcons after being traded from the Los Angeles Raiders. In four games, he rushed for 91 yards on 26 carries before being traded to the Green Bay Packers. He never played for Green Bay, having failed a physical, leading to his retirement. In 2017, he signed a one-day contract with the Rams in order to officially retire as a member of his original team.
1. Brett Favre, 1991
One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Favre was originally drafted by the Falcons 33rd overall in 1991. Jerry Glanville, the team’s head coach at the time, was famously quoted as saying it would take a plane crash for him to play Favre. In two games, Favre played a total of five snaps. His first was an interception returned for a touchdown. He threw another pick and two incompletions, and was sacked on his other snap.
It’s painfully obvious that Atlanta gave up on Favre way too early, but it’s hard to blame them. The Packers offered the 19th overall pick for Favre, which Atlanta of course accepted. It was an incredibly high price to give up for a second-year QB who had been a second-round pick, and whose limited action had been nothing short of disastrous. Things ended up working out pretty well for Favre and Green Bay, however. Meanwhile, the Falcons were unable to find a true franchise QB — unless you count Michael Vick — until Matt Ryan in 2008.