Hours after Falcons coach Mike Smith discussed his team’s open competition at the quarterback spot behind starter Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s front office all but ended the conversation.
The Falcons acquired former Texans starter T.J. Yates in a two-player trade on Wednesday night, sending linebacker Akeem Dent to Houston in return.
The acquisition assures the Falcons have plenty of insurance behind Ryan, as Yates has started seven career games, including two during the 2011 postseason where he started in the first playoff win in Houston’s franchise history. In fact, Yates beat the Falcons during his rookie debut that season after starter Matt Schaub, another former Falcons, went down with a foot injury. He’s passed for 1,100 career yards and three touchdowns while completing 60.8 percent of his passes.
Yates, a native of Marietta, Ga., more than likely supplants backup options Sean Renfree, Dominique Davis and undrafted free agent Jeff Matthews at No. 2 on the depth chart.
Word quickly got out that Yates was available after first-year Texans head coach Bill O’Brien named free agent pickup Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. Yates fell behind Case Keenum on the Houston depth chart last season. The 6-foot-4 UNC product has not started a game since his 2011 playoff run, though he did play in seven games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The original rumors were that the Texans were ste to release Yates once the Texans made their roster announcement, but it’s clear the Falcons did not want to risk losing out to an experienced backup’s services on the waiver wire.
Yates is on the last year of his rookie deal.
Dent, who is also on the last year of his rookie deal, is a former third-pick of the Falcons who was competing for a spot in a crowded but inexperienced linebacking corps. He’s played in 47 games and made 20 starts since joing the team in 2011. Dent should work his way into the linebacker rotation at Houston, one which includes the likes of starter Brian Cushing and No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
All the same, the Falcons have to walk away feeling much more secure about their quarterback position than they did Wednesday afternoon during mandatory minicamps.
With $100 million man Ryan at the helm, the franchise has been in good hands, as he’s started all but two games since becoming the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. Ryan was sacked 44 times last season, though, third-most in the league, and if the addition of first-round pick Jake Matthews can’t help shore up the offensive line then having Yates on the sidelines will ease a bit of the tension every time Ryan gets hit.