December 8, 2019 Atlanta - Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff (right) congratulates coach Dan Quinn shake hands after Atlanta Falcons beat Carolina Panthers during the second half in a NFL football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, December 8, 2019. Atlanta Falcons won 40-20 over the Carolina Panthers. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Falcons add depth in second phase of free agency 

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn focused on creating depth on the roster as they moved through the second phase of free agency this week. 

“They’ve done a great job of getting after the things that they believe we need and know that we need,” said linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who signed a one-year deal for a second tour of duty with the team. “So, I’m excited to see the work that we are all going to put in.”

After adding defensive end Dante Fowler, running back Todd Gurley and tight end Hayden Hurst in the first phase of free agency, the Falcons added Reynolds, tight end Khari Lee, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and guard Justin McCray. They also re-signed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and safety Sharrod Neasman. 

“I’m excited to see Todd Gurley as well,” Reynolds said. “I’m excited to see that entire offense work and see how much work we put in together. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Lee, who played in the XFL for the D.C. Defenders, is an intriguing talent. He signed a one-year contract Wednesday.

Lee, 28, who played at Bowie (Md.) State, signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He has spent time with Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo in the NFL and has played in 34 NFL games, making seven starts.

Lee (6-foot-4 and 253 pounds) was a member of the XFL’s D.C. Defenders. He caught eight passes for 91 yards, including two touchdowns, in five games. 

“Khari was one of the leaders of the entire football team, not just on the offensive side of the ball,” D.C. Defenders coach Pep Hamilton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He is an every-down tight end, which are hard to find these days because you don’t have as many candidates at tight end that come out of college football because of the advent of the spread offense.”

Lee, who’s the most likely candidate for the No. 2 tight end spot behind Hurst, is versatile. He will need to replace Luke Stocker, who was released.

“He can play with the ball and without the ball,” Hamilton said. “That’s important. He can play the (blocking) tight end position, which is known as the ‘Y’ position in the NFL. But he can also play off the ball and play as a ‘move tight end.’ He brings tremendous versatility to an offense that’s had a history of featuring tight ends.”

Hamilton, who coached 11 seasons in the NFL, believes the Falcons got a steal in Lee. 

“He has all of the tools and the ability to play in the NFL,” Hamilton said. “It was just a matter of staying healthy and having the right opportunity. If he had stayed healthy, he would have stayed in the NFL. He would have never been in the XFL.”

Lee’s position coach in the XFL was Augusta native Jimmie Johnson, who played 10 years in the NFL and was a tight ends coach with the Vikings (2006-13) and Jets (2015-18).  

“He did a good job for me,” Johnson said. “He’s real intelligent. He’s sharp. He does a good job of catching the ball. He does a great job of making defenders miss when he has the ball in his hands.”

Johnson was impressed with Lee’s blocking, too. 

“I was real surprised when we asked him to pass protect,” Johnson said. “We asked the tight end to pass protect, and he did a great job of that. Yeah, I think his glass is half-full. His arrow is still going up.” 

Reynolds, who played with the Falcons in 2016 and 2017, signed mostly to help on special teams.

“This time it’s different because so much is going on around the world,” Reynolds said “Just being able to sign early is so beneficial, especially for me in this case, being a veteran and signing a one-year (contract).”

Laquon Treadwell, who was a first-round pick (23rd overall) of the Vikings in the 2016 draft, finished his career as the leading receiver in Ole Miss history, with 202 catches. But he has struggled in the NFL because of his inability to create separation.

After catching only one pass in his rookie season in 2016, he was noted more for his blocking in Minnesota.  

Treadwell has played in 53 games and made 16 starts for the Vikings, catching 65 of 107 targeted passes for 701 yards and two touchdowns.

He hopes to get a fresh start with the Falcons. 

McCray, who has played with the Packers and Browns, will provide some offensive line depth. 

McCray, who’s 6-foot-3 and 317 pounds and played at Central Florida, has played in 40 NFL games, with 17 starts. 

Neasman, 28, joined the Falcons in 2016 and has appeared in 41 games.

Over four seasons, Neasman has recorded 53 tackles, two tackles for a loss, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

Neasman also has played on special teams.

In 2019, Neasman participated in 73.8% of the Falcons’ special-teams snaps, the most of any player.

Wreh-Wilson started two of 14 games last season and is a dependable reserve. He made 24 tackles and had seven pass breakups last season. He has been with the Falcons since 2016.

He is a six-year veteran who has played in 60 career games, with 16 starts, while totaling 112 tackles (95 solo), 11 special-teams tackles, one interception, 23 passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Wreh-Wilson was drafted by the Titans in the third round (70th overall) of the 2013 NFL draft out of Connecticut.

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