Falcons land versatile defender in Reed

A couple of weeks back, Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates was visiting Houston and lodged with former teammate Brooks Reed and his fiancee, Natalie.

Now, the Marietta native can return the favor after Yates re-signed with the Falcons and Reed, a linebacker, agreed to a five-year, $22 million deal with the team Tuesday, the first day of the NFL’s new business year.

“Brooks is a huge pickup for us,” said Yates, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal to serve as Matt Ryan’s backup. “Brooks is one of the hardest workers that I’ve been around. He’s a very versatile guy.

Yates and Reed have been friends since both were selected by the Texans in the 2011 draft. Reed was drafted in the second round (42nd overall) and Yates in the fifth (152nd).

“He can put his hand in the dirt,” Yates said. “He can stand up and play linebacker. He can cover running backs out of the backfield. He can do a lot of different things.”

In addition to Yates and Reed, the Falcons re-signed electric running back Antone Smith and signed two other free agents: linebacker Justin Durant and guard Mike Person.

Durant, a productive but often-injured linebacker, was with the Cowboys the past two seasons.

Also, the Falcons have a visit scheduled with former Georgia Tech standout defensive end Derrick Morgan, who’s been with Tennessee the past five seasons. He looking to fit into a team’s 4-3 defense after the Titans tried to convert him to an outside linebacker last season. Morgan also is scheduled to visit the Buccaneers.

The Falcons are trying to land former Rams tight end Lance Kendricks and former Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker, and former Washington wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is schedule to visit the Falcons.

The Falcons were considered the “front runners” to land Reed. The process was later described as a three-team race.

The Falcons believe that Reed’s numbers can improve dramatically, just as Connor Barwin’s did. Also a former Texan, Barwin left for Philadelphia after the 2012 season and had five sacks in 2013 and 14.5 last season for the Eagles.

The New York Jets, Chicago, Arizona and Oakland were interested in Reed.

Durant, 29, has also played with Jacksonville and Detroit. He was a second-round pick out of Hampton in 2007.

Durant suffered a torn bicep and played in only six games for the Cowboys. He had surgery to repair the tear.

He was leading the Cowboys in tackles with 61 at the time of his injury. He also had two forced fumbles, four tackles for a loss and an interception. Durability is an issue, as he’s missed 16 games over the past two seasons, which both ended on injured reserve.

Morgan, 26, has amassed 23 sacks over five seasons. He’s had at least six sacks in each of the pass three seasons. At 6-foot-3, 296 pounds, he’s a traditional 4-3 defensive end.

Smith, who’s recovering from a fractured leg, played 96 snaps from scrimmage and had an impact. He also had three tackles on special teams.

Smith, who also attracted some attention from the New York Giants, had 23 carries for 144 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He caught 13 of 15 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

Person, 6-4, 300 pounds, was selected by San Francisco in the seventh round (239th overall) of the 2011 NFL draft out of Montana State. He’s spent time with the 49ers, Colts, Seahawks and Rams. He’s played in 17 games in his career, including all 16 games last season.

“We believe that they all possess skill sets that fit our schemes and will be pieces to what we are putting together,” coach Dan Quinn said in a statement released by the team. “This is just the first step in putting our roster together.”

The team’s offseason program will start April 6.