ATLANTA -- Filling one of their biggest remaining offseason needs, the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday afternoon reached an agreement to acquire New Orleans left offensive tackle Wayne Gandy in a trade that sends three-year veteran safety Bryan Scott and an undisclosed 2007 draft choice to the Saints.
The trade, unusual in that it involves division rivals, is expected to be completed on Friday when the pertinent paperwork is forwarded to the league offices.
The Falcons lost starting left tackle Kevin Shaffer to the Cleveland Browns as an unrestricted free agent in the opening days of the signing period and, even before his departure, they were looking to upgrade at the position. ESPN.com reported Friday in its "Tip Sheet" column that Atlanta officials had spoken to the San Francisco 49ers about the possibility of acquiring former first-round draft choice Kwame Harris in a trade, and that the Falcons were also keeping an eye on Gandy's situation.
New Orleans nearly released Gandy last spring after he declined to restructure his contract, and there had been recent rumblings the Saints no longer had the 12-year veteran in their plans for 2006. The Saints are scheduled to begin a mandatory mini-camp on Friday under rookie head coach Sean Payton, and clearly New Orleans officials wanted to resolve Gandy's status before that.
In Gandy, the Falcons are acquiring a 35-year-old veteran who played at a very high level in 2005, and who should be able to provide Atlanta a couple more good seasons. Landing him allows the Falcons to take time to develop Frank Omiyale. A fifth-round selection from Tennessee Tech in 2005, Omiyale did not play a single snap as a rookie, but Falcons coaches love his potential and view him as their starter of the future.
Omiyale is very raw, however, and now the Falcons are under no urgency to force him into the lineup. Also, the addition of Gandy, who makes his offseason home in Atlanta, will give Omiyale a patient veteran tutor. Gandy is known as a high-character player whose presence in the locker room will be welcomed by the Falcons coaches and players.
Gandy has three seasons remaining on his contract, at base salaries of $4 million for 2006 and $3.5 million each for 2007 and 2008. It is not yet known if his contract was adjusted as part of the trade.
In 12 seasons, Gandy, a first-round choice of the then-Los Angeles Rams in 1994, has appeared in 191 games and started in 184 of them. Since 1995, his second year in the league, the former Auburn star has started at least 15 games every season. His career has included stints with the Rams (1994-98), Steelers (1999-2002) and Saints (2003-2005).
It remains to be seen how the Saints, who have now lost three offensive line starters in the offseason, will replace him. One option might be to move Jammal Brown, the team's first-round choice in 2005 and an immediate starter at right tackle as a rookie, to the left side. Another might be to use the second overall pick in the draft to select a tackle. The Saints lost Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley to Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent and recently released guard Kendyl Jacox.
Scott, 25, was the Falcons' second-round choice in 2003, but the former Penn State standout has never played up to his draft status. The Falcons' offseason additions of veteran safeties Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker, and the initiative to make a wholesale overhaul at the position, made Scott extraneous.
In his three seasons in Atlanta, Scott registered 221 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed, 3½ sacks, four forced fumbles and four recoveries. He appeared in 47 games and started in 35 contests. In 2005, Scott started in 13 of 16 appearances and had 73 tackles, one interception and seven pass deflections.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.