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

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Brady Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Brady Smith, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

(2000-05). Brady Smith. 14. player. 44. . DE

Brady Smith was a third-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 1996 NFL Draft. Smith was a promising pass rusher coming out of Colorado State with an NFL pedigree, as his father Steve Smith played on the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles offensive lines in the 1960s and the 1970s.

In his four years with the Saints, Smith was mostly a situational pass rusher. While he played in 62 games for New Orleans in four seasons, he only made 27 starts for the Saints. In limited action, Smith had 92 combined tackles (73 solo, 19 assists), 13.0 quarterback sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

Then in 2000 NFL free agency, Smith would sign with the Saints’ arch rival and call Atlanta home for the next six years. Smith would be part of two playoff teams in Atlanta, as he was with the Falcons throughout nearly all the Michael Vick experience.

While Smith never had 10 sacks in a season at any point of his decade-long NFL career, he would never have fewer that 3.0 in a year for the Falcons. His best numbers came in 2001 when he took the opposing quarterback to the turf eight times. Smith had 6.5 sacks in 2002 and 6.0 in 2004 as a key piece of the Atlanta front-seven in both postseason pushes in the Vick era of the Falcons.

In total, Smith amassed 170 combined tackles (136 solo, 34 assists), 46 tackles for a loss of yardage, 32.0 quarterback sacks, 10 passes defended, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries for a touchdown and an interception.

Though Smith’s pass-rushing numbers will be lost to time, his ability to get consistent pressure up front was welcomed in Atlanta for half-a-dozen years. By adding a player that used to play for an arch rival in the Saints and getting better production out of him than New Orleans thought possible, it’s no wonder Smith’s free agent acquisition in 2000 is good enough to crack this top-15.