|Coming home: Falcons sign Denver kicker Jason Elam|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 March 2008 19:15|
The 38-year-old Elam confirmed the four-year, $9 million deal in a telephone conversation.
He had been Denver's kicker since 1993, but he's coming home in a sense. He played high school football in suburban Atlanta.
``It was a decision I put a lot of thought into,'' Elam said. ``I'm excited to be back in my hometown, although it's bittersweet. I'll be really sad to leave Denver. It's been awesome. But I'm excited about the next chapter.''
Elam said he spent many sleepless nights weighing the decision of whether to remain with Denver or sign with Atlanta. What finally won him over was the Falcons' devotion to him.
``They were like, 'You're our guy and we don't care if you're 38 years old,''' Elam said. ``I like their direction.''
Elam and coach Mike Shanahan have been trading phone messages all day. The kicker wanted to let his coach know that he appreciated his time in Denver.
``He left me a very kind message,'' Elam said. ``I'm going to miss Denver. It's a parting of ways, but it's a good parting. This is a new beginning and I'm fired up.''
In 1993, Elam kicked a 63-yard field goal against Jacksonville, tying Tom Dempsey's record for the longest field goal in NFL history.
Elam has reached 100 points in each of his 15 seasons and ranks fifth on the career list with 395 field goals and sixth in points with 1,786.
He finished last season with 15 consecutive field goals and kicked four game-winners, the most in the NFL since 1990. He also surpassed John Elway for most games in Broncos history last season.
``I never dreamed of a 15-year career, let alone with one team,'' Elam said. ``I had a great experience. They had a tough decision to make. They were looking at me going into my 16th year and thinking, 'Do we really want to invest a lot more in him?' I didn't envy their job. I hope they understand.''
Elam had a feeling the end was near several weeks ago and has been slowly gathering his personal items from his locker at Dove Valley. It was also a chance for him to say farewell to some of his teammates.
``Fifteen years in Denver - I have no complaints whatsoever,'' Elam said. ``I'm excited to be here. I don't think I could've scripted my career any better.''
The Falcons used 47-year-old Morten Andersen the last two seasons, but he doesn't have Elam's range. Andersen, the leading scorer and field goal kicker in NFL history, will have to find another team in his quest to become the league's first 50-year-old player.
Matt Prater would get the first shot at replacing Elam in Denver. He handled kickoff duties in the Broncos' last two games after being waived by Miami and Atlanta last season.
The signing of Elam was yet another major move by the Falcons, who are trying to remake their roster under new general Thomas Dimitroff and first-year coach Mike Smith.
Atlanta, coming off a miserable 4-12 season that fell apart after Michael Vick was linked to dogfighting, already cut tight end Alge Crumpler, running back Warrick Dunn and defensive tackle Rod Coleman in salary-cap moves. On Thursday, they dealt two-time Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall to Oakland for a second-round pick this year and a fifth-rounder in 2009.
AP Sports Writers Paul Newberry and Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.