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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Falcons get back leader in Babineaux

By Vaughn McClure

Sometimes value can't be determined simply by a dollar amount.

Such is the case with Atlanta Falcons veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who agreed to a three-year extension with the team Tuesday hours before the official start of free agency. He is on track to finish his productive career in the place it started, with no stops in between.

The deal is reportedly worth $4 million guaranteed in 2014 and $9 million over three years, according to's Ian Rapoport. But Babineaux's worth to the Falcons is immeasurable. He is a locker-room leader, the consummate professional who continually sets an example for the younger players around him. Babineaux has been a Falcon since 2005, when he was drafted in the second round out of Iowa.

Some would say Babineaux, who turns 33 in October, won't have much impact on a defense in need of dramatic improvement going into 2014. But it's not about sacks or snaps for him next season. It's about chemistry and leadership.

The Falcons have plans to use more of a 3-4-based defensive scheme next season, which doesn't exactly cater to Babineaux's strengths. But he'll get ample opportunity to help stop the run and pressure quarterbacks even if he's not the featured guy. The Falcons already made one veteran defender a situational player when defensive end Osi Umenyiora was asked to be a designated pass-rusher toward the end of last season.

How about a designated run-stuffer?

However things unfold, Babineaux is sure to leave his mark next season and after he finally steps away from the game.

The Falcons have benefited from his presence all this time. There's no reason to believe they won't reap the same benefits for the next three seasons.