FLOWERY BRANCH – With the primary offseason focus on improving the leagues worst defense, the Falcons did some minor retooling at the tight end position.
Wade Harman, a holdover from coach Mike Smith’s staff, moved over from his assistant offensive line position to take over as tight ends coach in his second season with the team. He was the Ravens tight ends coach from 1999 to 2013.
Harman’s former players include Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe and two-time Pro Bowler Todd Heap.
Levine Toilolo started at tight end for the Falcons last season. Second-string tight end Bear Pascoe was not re-signed. Tight end Kyle Miller, who was on the practice squad in 2014, was released on May 3.
The Falcons added Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki in free agency on March 19. Tamme signed a two-year, $2.1 million deal and received a $400,000 signing bonus. Moeaki received a no-frills one-year, $745,000 contract.
Mickey Shuler Jr., a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010, has been with seven teams and is getting his second shot with the Falcons.
After the draft, the Falcons signed undrafted rookie Beau Gardner, who’s 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds. He played at Northern Arizona.
Gardner, 26, went on a Mormon mission after high school. He started his career at Mesa Community College.
Gardner ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds at the NAU Pro Day. His time would have been third among tight ends at the NFL combine. He had a 41 inch vertical jump, which would have been first place at the combine.
Shuler might be ready for a NFL breakthrough.
“(Shuler) has come back in, and he looks strong,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’ll get a better evaluation of him when we get into camp. I have a sense that he
may really thrive as a blocker in this system. It will be interesting to see what he can do.”
Tamme, 30, caught 67 passes for the Colts in 2010 and 52 for Denver in 2012.
Moeaki caught 47 passes as a rookie in 2010 with the Chiefs and 33 in 2012. He’s trying to revive his career after a series of injuries.
“They are good pass-catchers,” Quinn said. “They are talented guys.”
Toilolo came on as a blocker last season, but didn’t develop into the red-zone threat the former regime envisioned.
“It’s all about pad level for him,” Quinn said. “He’s come in, and he’s been ready to work. I’ve been anxiously waiting to see what he can do.”
Quinn believes the group is doing well in the offseason program.
“You should see how close they are. They are doing all of their drills together,” Quinn said. “They’ve been boxing. They’ve been lifting. They’ve been conditioning. It’s a pretty cool group to see how tight they are becoming.”
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