Falcons sign Hankerson for depth at wide receiver

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons added depth at wide receiver on Wednesday by signing free agent Leonard Hankerson, who fought two serious injuries in his four seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Hankerson hurt his left knee late in the 2013 season and due to the extended recovery played in only one game in 2014.

The Falcons needed depth behind starting receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White after releasing Harry Douglas, who has agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans.

Hankerson (6-2, 211) has 81 career catches for 1,081 yards in 31 games, including 14 starts. He set career highs with 38 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. He had 30 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games in 2013.

Hankerson’s signing comes one day after the team signed free-agent linebackers Brooks Reed and Justin Durant and offensive lineman Mike Person.

Hankerson issued a statement on his Twitter feed in which he thanked the Redskins and team owner Dan Snyder.

“I definitely would like to thank @Redskins and Dan for everything, it’s been a pleasure, I’ve grown and learned a lot there,” Hankerson said.

Hankerson was Washington’s No. 2 receiver when he hurt his knee in 2013. It marked the second time in three years his season was ended by an injury. He tore the labrum in his right hip and played in only four games as a rookie in 2011.

The Falcons are pursuing free-agent defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Adrian Clayborn.

Morgan was a first-round pick from Georgia Tech in 2010. He led the Titans with 6 1/2 sacks in 2014, matching his career high. He has had at least 6 sacks in three straight seasons and has played at least 15 games in four straight years.

Clayborn played only one game with Tampa Bay last season due to a torn bicep. When healthy, he had a combined 13 sacks in 2011 and 2013.

The Falcons tied for 30th in the league with only 22 sacks last season. Only the Bengals, with 20, had fewer. Kroy Biermann, an unrestricted free agent, led Atlanta with 4 ½ sacks.

Durant said Wednesday he wants to help new coach Dan Quinn rebuild the defense.

“It’s always good to be part of a resurgence, so I’m looking forward to that challenge,” Durant said. “I know coach is going to put everybody in the right spot to be able to contribute and he’s going to get the right people out on the field. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

Reed, who had only 14 1/2 sacks in four seasons with Houston, said he hoped to help improve the pass rush.

“I know this is a big emphasis for this team under coach Quinn,” Reed said. “I do have a lot of experience and I know my stats haven’t shown for it in the past but I’m working hard every day to get better.”

Reed and Durant said they became more interested in the Falcons after Quinn, the former Seattle defensive coordinator, was hired last month.

“I called around to some guys I played with who played for him,” Durant said. “They said nothing but great things so once I saw he was out here it was definitely a place that I was considering.”

Durant and Reed are expected to play the outside linebacker spots in Quinn’s 4-3 defense.