5 Best Free Agent Acquisitions in Atlanta Falcons History

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIJanuary 24, 2014

5 Best Free Agent Acquisitions in Atlanta Falcons History

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons haven't exactly been the most productive team in the history of NFL free agency. However, they did succeed tremendously with five signings in particular. Only one of those was in the modern era of the Falcons, while the others are in the mid-late 1990s era.

    Follow along for the five best signings in Atlanta Falcons history.

5. CB Ray Buchanan, 1997 to 2003

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    One of the best moves the Falcons ever made was bringing in Ray Buchanan for the prime years of his career between 1997 and 2003. His 30 total interceptions in a seven-year period is third best in team history, tied with Scott Case and just behind Rolland Lawrence and Ray Brown.

    His 397 solo tackles is one of the best marks in the history of the franchise as well. Atlanta got one of the best corners in the league from 1997 to 2003 in Big Play Ray. Unfortunately, he was only recognized as such during the 1998 season when he earned his only Pro Bowl Berth.


    Career Stats as a Falcon

    1997: 16 Games Played, 48 Tackles, 5 Interceptions

    1998: 16 Games Played, 54 Tackles, 7 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Forced

    1999: 16 Games Played, 59 Tackles, 1.0 Sacks, 4 Interceptions, 1 Defensive Touchdown

    2000: 16 Games Played, 69 Tackles, 6 Interceptions, 2 Fumbles Recovered

    2001: 16 Games Played, 63 Tackles, 5 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 19 Pass Deflections

    2002: 12 Games Played, 42 Tackles, 2 Interceptions

    2003: 15 Games Played, 37 Tackles, 1 Interception, 8 Pass Deflections

4. WR Terance Mathis, 1994 to 2001

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    DARRYL WEBB/Associated Press

    Before Roddy White turned into the best receiver the Falcons have ever had, the honor belonged to Terance Mathis. Every franchise record that Roddy White broke or will break belonged to Mathis at one point in time. 

    Mathis was a model of consistency at receiver for a franchise who didn't see much consistency from their quarterbacks throughout his years. Between Jeff George, Bobby Hebert and Chris Chandler, it's not like Mathis had a murderer's row of quarterbacks tossing it to him, but he still produced.


    Career Stats as a Falcon

    1994: 16 Games Played, 111 Catches, 1,342 Yards, 11 Touchdowns

    1995: 14 Games Played, 78 Catches, 1,039 Yards, 9 Touchdowns

    1996: 16 Games Played, 69 Catches, 771 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 3 Punt Returns, 19 Yards

    1997: 16 Games Played, 62 Catches, 802 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 3 Carries, 35 Yards

    1998: 16 Games Played, 64 Catches, 1,136 Yards, 11 Touchdowns, 1 Carry, -6 Yards, 1 Punt Return, 0 Yards

    1999: 16 Games Played, 81 Catches, 1,016 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 1 Carry, 0 Yards

    2000: 16 Games Played, 57 Catches, 679 Yards, 5 Touchdowns, 1 Carry, -5 Yards

    2001: 16 Games Played, 51 Catches, 564 Yards, 2 Touchdowns

3. K Morten Andersen, 1995 to 2000 and 2006 to 2007

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    RIC FELD/Associated Press

    Morten Andersen is the Atlanta Falcons career leader for field-goals attempted and field-goals made. And he didn't even start playing for the Falcons until he turned 35 in 1995. He's also the Falcons career leading scorer with a 248-point lead over the second place guy on the list, Mick Luckhurst.

    It's safe to say the Falcons got their money's worth on not just his first time, but the second time as well. On 200 kicks inside of 50 yards, he missed 31 of them. His 84.5 percent accuracy within 50 is one of the best marks of his era.


    Career Stats as a Falcon

    1995: 31-of-37 on all Field Goals, 8-of-9 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 29-of-30 on Extra Points

    1996: 22-of-29 on all Field Goals, 1-of-5 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 31-of-31 on Extra Points

    1997: 23-of-27 on all Field Goals, 2-of-3 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 35-of-35 on Extra Points

    1998: 23-of-28 on all Field Goals, 2-of-2 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 51-of-52 on Extra Points

    1999: 15-of-21 on all Field Goals, 0-of-1 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 34-of-34 on Extra Points

    2000: 25-of-31 on all Field Goals, 2-of-3 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 23-of-23 on Extra Points

    2006: 20-of-23 on all Field Goals, 0-of-1 on 50+ yard Field Goals, 27-of-27 on Extra Points

    2007: 25-of-28 on all Field Goals, 24-of-24 on Extra Points

2. LB Cornelius Bennett, 1996 to 1998

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The best defensive signing the Falcons have ever made was the one who completely changed the attitude of the late-1990s defense—Cornelius Bennett. While his 11 sacks, 240-plus tackles and six fumbles forced helped out quite a bit throughout the three-year stretch, it was his leadership that made the difference.

    Despite posting the worst defense in the NFL in 1996, they improved to the fourth-best scoring and eighth best yardage-allowed defense in 1998. His influence was a tremendous reason for that as the defense went from a soft, finesse style to a more physical style. Without Bennett, the 1998 defense would have never been nearly as good.


    Career Stats as a Falcon

    1996: 13 Games Played, 60 Tackles, 3.0 Sacks, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Fumbles Recovered

    1997: 16 Games Played, 90 Tackles, 7.0 Sacks, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered

    1998: 16 Games Played, 92 Tackles, 1.0 Sack, 2 Fumbles Recovered

1. RB Michael Turner, 2008 to 2012

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The best free agent in Falcons history was also the first free agent of the Thomas Dimitroff era. Michael Turner is the Falcons all-time leading rushing touchdown leader and was their leading rusher for five straight seasons.

    Turner's production was a big reason the Falcons were able to go 56-24 in the five years Turner was with the Falcons. Atlanta would have loved to get even Turner's worst year's worth of production in 2013 and hopefully, Steven Jackson can provide that moving forward.


    Career Stats as a Falcon

    2008: 16 Games Played, 376 Carries, 1,699 Yards, 17 Touchdowns, 6 Catches, 41 Yards

    2009: 11 Games Played, 178 Carries, 871 Yards, 10 Touchdowns, 5 Catches, 35 Yards

    2010: 16 Games Played, 334 Carries, 1,371 Yards, 12 Touchdowns, 12 Catches, 85 Yards

    2011: 16 Games Played, 301 Carries, 1,340 Yards, 11 Touchdowns, 17 Catches, 168 Yards

    2012: 16 Games Played, 222 Carries, 800 Yards, 10 Touchdowns, 19 Catches, 128 Yards, 1 Touchdown


    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.

    Follow @ScottCarasik