Falcons spend $80 million in free agency to buy toughness

There’s a price tag for toughness, and the Falcons were willing to pay.

As it turns out, toughness costs just over $80 million.

That’s how much money the Falcons spent to secure three free agents to help bolster their defensive and offensive lines at the start of free agency Tuesday, when they added defensive tackle Paul Soliai ($33 million), defensive end Tyson Jackson ($25 million) and right guard Jon Asamoah (projected $22.5 million).

The players spoke to the media Wednesday and shared their thoughts on free agency, the playoffs and, of course, toughness.

Q: Why did you select the Falcons in free agency?

Asamoah: I look at the team and the players that we have here, especially on offense, it’s incredible. Watching film, you watch basically every team throughout the year, and two years ago when we watched the Falcons game, I saw Matt Ryan back there calm and collected. I was like, I want to be with a quarterback like that, that’s on point. Between him and the receivers, you know, and Steven Jackson and the running backs, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

Jackson: I thought it was the best situation for me at the time. I had a few teams that were interested, but just looking at Atlanta and what they’ve been doing in the past and how high quality that they’ve been, I thought I could be a good addition to the team and help bring them a step closer to getting the ultimate goal.

Soliai: There were other teams, but I just thought it would be nice to come in a play for a wonderful organization. I think I feel comfortable just coming in and spending the rest of my time here in Atlanta and helping out.

Q: Define what toughness means to you?

Asamoah: The thing we did in K.C. is that we had a mentality. We were going to try to physically impose ourselves on you. … It was just a mentality for us. We’re going to take it to these guys, and it’s going to open up everything else. That’s something that I hope, that part of my mentality can rub off anybody in the room that’s ready for it.

Jackson: I think you define toughness as something that is constant. You don’t bend no matter what happens. As a group. That’s one of my favorite quotes, strike iron with iron. I think that’s the definition of toughness.

Soliai: I don’t really have a term right now. My personal stuff, I do all of my talking on the field. That’s how I show my toughness.

Q: What happened this year with you losing the starting position?

Asamoah: We played in a game, it was Week 10 last year, and I got dinged up after the game. It was a close call the next week, and they were trying to decide if I was going to be able to go or not. (Geoff) Schwartz played, and he continued to play well. I had discussions with them, and they decided to keep running with Schwartz. … I’ve played a ton of football. My resume speaks for itself. I’ve started over 40 games, and I’ve been dependable.

Q: Will the Falcons be able to turn things around like the Chiefs did last year?

Jackson: It’s a new start. All 32 teams in (the NFL) will have the same goal. Everyone is going to be pushing for that Super Bowl. That’s the step that we are going to take. We are going to first take care of the NFC South. We are going to take care of our business there, and we’re going to make a push in the playoffs and be a contender for the Super Bowl. That’s our plan.

Q: How’s your relationship with Mike Nolan and Bryan Cox?

Soliai: Coach Nolan, I have a great relationship with him. He kind of taught me how to play the position.

Q: Did you and Tyson keep in touch during free agency?

Asamoah: Free agency was strange because you didn’t know how much you could talk to somebody else. It was like the weirdest and most secretive thing, even amongst your friends. I didn’t know anything about Tyson. I read that the Chiefs were talking to him, but I didn’t talk to him myself.

Q: Have you thought about facing (New Orleans quarterback) Drew Brees and (Carolina quarterback) Cam Newton twice a year?

Jackson: They are two talented quarterbacks. They are two different type of quarterbacks, and they are both great in their own different ways. It’s going to be a challenge. Once we get together as a team, we’re going to come up with a great answer and come up with a great game plan for those guys.

Q: Have you ever played in any defense besides a 3-4? Did you play in a 4-3 in college? Do you have a preference?

Soliai: It really doesn’t matter. I’ve played in 3-4, 4-3. I doesn’t matter what defense it is. I’m really pumped and ready to play.

Q: Could you give us some insight about what we should expect to see from Tyson?

Asamoah: Actually, Tyson to me, is actually one of the best run defenders in the league. He’s tough against the run. He’s been a pain in my butt for four years (in practice.) He’s really tough, and he can get some pressure on the quarterback.

Q: Is it important to have a team with a defensive identity?

Jackson: I think Seattle proved one thing in the Super Bowl, you need a defense in this league. No matter what the offenses are doing these days.

Q: After making the Pro Bowl in 2011, what must you do to get back to a Pro Bowl level?

Soliai: I just have to play like I’m playing right now and make more plays. Whatever happens, happens. If the Pro Bowl comes and I’m in it, I’m in it. … I’m just thankful that I’m still playing.

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