Saturday, March 5, 2005
Four-year deal to be completed next week
By Len Pasquarelli
ATLANTA -- For the second time in two days, the Atlanta Falcons have made a significant move on special teams, as ESPN.com has learned that the team reached a Saturday contract agreement to retain standout return specialist Allen Rossum.
Coming off a 2004 season in which he played in the Pro Bowl, and established himself as one of the NFL's best combination return men, Rossum wll sign a four-year contract next week. Complete financial details of the contract were not immediately available, but it is believed that Rossum received a signing bonus of about $2 million.
The retention of Rossum came just one day after the Falcons reached an agreement with unrestricted free agent kicker Todd Peterson, who will replace the inconsistent Jay Feely.
Rossum, 29, visited with San Diego coaches and team officials earlier in the week and the Chargers, who released return man Tim Dwight last week, had made him a contract offer. At least three other teams demonstrated interest as well but Rossum, after returning to Atlanta to consider his options, decided Saturday to stay with the Falcons.
The seven-year veteran had a combined 1,707 return yards in 2004. He returned 58 kickoffs for a 21.6-yard average and also averaged 12.4 yards on 37 punt returns. His punt return for a touchdown, just before halftime, was one of the key plays in Atlanta's rout of the St. Louis Rams in a divisional-round playoff game.
In his three seasons with the Falcons, who signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, Rossum has accumulated combined 4,995 yards on returns. For his career, he has a 22.8-yard average on kickoff returns and an 11.0-yard average on punt returns. Rossum has three touchdowns each on kickoff and punt runbacks.
Another plus is that Rossum, a defensive back in college, can play in "nickel" pass coverage packages, and is a solid defender in that role. He has 90 career tackles and two interceptions. In seven seasons, he has appeared in 99 games.
Had the Falcons not retained Rossum, they probably would have pursued Dwight, who began his career with the Falcons.
The addition of Peterson on Friday, first reported by ESPN.com, ended the four-year Atlanta tenure of Feely, who inexplicably struggled at the Georgia Dome throughout his career here. The Falcons had made Feely an offer early in the week but gave him a deadline for accepting it. When the deadline passed, Atlanta officials quickly sought other options, and contacted Peterson on the first day of the free agency signing period.
Negotiations with Peterson began on Thursday and concluded Friday afternoon. He will take a physical on Monday and, barring complications, will sign a one-year contract. Financial details of the deal were not immediately available.
Peterson, 35, was in training camp with the Falcons earlier in his career and it has been a longtime aspiration to play in Atlanta, where he makes his offseason home.
The San Francisco 49ers, for whom Peterson kicked the last two seasons, had hoped to retain him. San Francisco considered Peterson not only a solid kicker but also a strong leader in the locker room.
In 11 seasons, Peterson has converted 212-of-271 field goal attempts and all but three of his extra point tries, for 939 points.
He has played with Arizona (1994), Seattle (1995-99), Kansas City (2000-01), Pittsburgh (2002) and San Francisco (2003-2004). This will mark Peterson's first time with a dome team and kicking indoors, and possibly not having to handle the kickoff chores, should help prolong his career.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .