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Sunday, July 24, 2005
With Smith out, Falcons sign free agent Flowers

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Atlanta Falcons: With their numbers and experience at defensive end reduced by the neck surgery that will sideline starter Brady Smith for all of training camp, the Falcons on Sunday signed veteran free agent Erik Flowers. To create a spot for Flowers, the club waived second-year end Otis Grigsby.

Flowers, 27, is a five-year veteran and former first-round choice of the Buffalo Bills (2000), and a player who has never fulfilled his potential. Contract details were not available, but it is believed that he signed a one-year deal with a minimum base salary of $540,000. Flowers will be on the field Monday afternoon for the team's first training camp practice.

In 58 games, including six starts, Flowers has 49 tackles, five sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three pass deflections. He has played with Buffalo (2000-01), Houston (2002) and St. Louis (2003-2004). In addition to playing end, the former Arizona State star has also lined up at outside linebacker on occasion. Team officials had previously said they would not add another veteran end, even in the wake of Smith's surgery. Second-year veteran Khaleed Vaughn, who has just four regular-season appearances, is listed now as the starter at Smith's right end spot.

A nine-year veteran, Smith, who has averaged 14.6 starts and 5.8 sacks in five seasons with the Falcons, could be sidelined early in the regular season, depending upon how fast he rehabilitates from surgery. Normal recovery time for such surgery is 6-12 weeks so, in the worst-case scenario, the starting right end would miss the first month of the season.

The Falcons announced that they have reached contract terms with five of their eight 2005 draft choices: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (No. 2), linebacker Jordan Beck (No. 3), offensive tackle Frank Omiyale (No. 5b), tailback DeAndra Cobb (No. 6) and defensive tackle Darrell Shropshire (No. 7).

-- Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com senior writer

Chicago Bears: The Bears signed quarterback Kyle Orton to a four-year contract.

The Bears drafted Orton out of Purdue with the fifth pick in the fourth round, the 106th overall selection.

He was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate until he tore an abdominal muscle midway through the season.

Orton completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 9,337 yards and 63 touchdowns with 28 interceptions at Purdue. He had seven 300-yard passing games, including one 500-yard game and two 400-yard games.

Running back Cedric Benson is the Bears' only remaining unsigned pick.

Orton is expected to compete with Kurt Kittner to be the Bears' third quarterback behind starter Rex Grossman and backup Chad Hutchinson.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.