Atlanta Falcons: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

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Terance Mathis, Atlanta Falcons
8 Nov 1998: Wide receiver Terance Mathis #81 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during a game against the New England Patriots at the Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Falcons defeated the Patriots 41-10. /

. WR. (1994-01). Terance Mathis. 6. player. 44

Terance Mathis grew up in nearby Stone Mountain, Georgia. A two-sport athlete, Mathis went to the University of New Mexico to play both football and basketball for the Lobos. Despite becoming an All-American on the gridiron in college, Mathis would only be a sixth-round pick by the New York Jets in the 1990 NFL Draft.

After playing sparingly as a Jet during his first four years in the league, Mathis would hit free agency in 1994, opting to play for his hometown Falcons. This would prove to be an outstanding career decision for the talented wideout from Redan High School.

In his first year with the Falcons in 1994, Mathis made his first and only career trip to the Pro Bowl. He made the All-Pro Second-Team that fall as well with 111 catches for 1,342 yards and 11 touchdowns. Though that would be statistically his best season as a professional, Mathis was far from done cementing his Falcons football legacy.

He played with his hometown club for eight seasons, setting several franchise records in the process. Mathis had four 1,000-yard receiving seasons, two seasons of more than 10 touchdown grabs and that impressive 1994 season of over 100 receptions.

Over time, he would surpass his teammate Andre Rison to become the Falcons’ all-time leader in receptions (573), receiving yards (7,349) and touchdown receptions (57). Though not a Pro Bowler in 1998, Mathis was a key piece quarterback Chris Chandler’s second Pro Bowl season with the team. Mathis had 64 catches for 1,136 wars and 11 touchdowns in that NFC Championship campaign.

After the 2001 NFL season, Mathis would spend his final year in the league as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002. He retired at the age of 35 after 13 years in the league, the eight best clearly coming in Atlanta.

In the 17 years since he last played for the Falcons, Mathis has been surpassed in the franchise record books by both Julio Jones and Roddy White. Entering 2019, White currently holds all three major statistical receiving categories and Jones has surpassed Mathis in career receiving yardage.

Were White and Jones better receivers than Mathis in their careers? Yes, but Mathis is firmly a top-five Falcons receiver all-time in a select group that includes him, Jones, White, Rison and Alfred Jenkins.

One could argue that Mathis got the most out of his talent of any Falcons receiver ever.  Jones and White were former first-round picks and Jenkins and Rison were multi-time Pro Bowlers. Mathis is the best Falcons’ free agent wide receiver of all-time, hands down.