The Atlanta Falcons are making sure they have enough depth on defense this season.
On Friday, the team signed veteran linebacker and special teams contributor Stephone Anthony to a contract, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
A former first round draft pick from Clemson by the New Orleans Saints, Anthony was most recently with the Miami Dolphins, who acquired him in a trade in the 2017 season.
The Saints picked Anthony with the No. 31 overall selection, a pick which originally belonged to the Seahawks, but which was swapped in a trade that also saw New Orleans acquire veteran center Max Unger and part with tight end Jimmy Graham.
As a rookie, Anthony became the first player in NFL history to return a blocked kick for two points following a Kevin Williams’ block of an extra point attempt. The play resulted in a rule change that now forbids returns of blocked extra point kicks.
In that same game, Anthony also recorded a defensive touchdown in his first season against the Carolina Panthers when he forced a fumble from running back Jonathan Stewart, and in the 2015 campaign finished leading all defensive rookies in tackles.
His second season was short lived after he was placed on the injured reserve list that December, following a decline in play and a demotion from his former starting position.
In September 2017, the Saints traded Anthony to Miami in exchange for a fifth round draft selection and last offseason, the Dolphins declined to pick up his fifth year contract option, making him a free agent this year.
In his 50 game NFL career, Anthony has 150 tackles, five pass breakups, and one interception.
Acquiring depth at the linebacker position has been a subject of some intense focus for the Falcons after they watched the position group suffer as a result of Deion Jones’ injury last season.
Jones, their leading tackler and arguably best defensive player overall, missed 10 games in 2018 after suffering a foot injury in Week 1, and the team’s defensive performance declined sharply after his departure.
In all, the Falcons finished ranked sixth worst league, allowing six yards per play on average, and their pass defense ranked 27th overall, allowing 33 passing touchdowns, the fourth most in football, and surrendered 260 air yards per game on average, also the fourth most in the NFL.