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Tuesday, July 2
Falcons give Vick big target in Chiaverini

By Len Pasquarelli

ATLANTA -- Still trying to bolster an inexperienced wide receiver corps before training camp begins in three weeks, the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday signed Darrin Chiaverini, a three-year veteran released by the Dallas Cowboys earlier this spring.

Chiaverini, 24, won't provide the deep speed the Falcons lack at wide receiver, but he is another big and sure-handed target for Michael Vick in the young quarterback's first year as a starter. Traded by the Cleveland Browns to the Cowboys last summer, he played in 16 games and caught 10 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

The former Colorado star became expendable this spring when the Cowboys drafted former University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Bryant in the second round. Still, his outright release was mildly surprising, given that he can be an effective receiver in the intermediate areas and will also play on special teams.

He worked out for the Falcons last week and was scheduled to audition for Green Bay before camp, but Chiaverini and agent Vann McElroy decided the opportunity with a Falcons team still unsettled at wide receiver was a better one. His workout was a good one, with Chiaverini running in the high 4.5s, an adequate time for a player his size.

Chiaverini signed a one-year contract for $450,000, the minimum base salary for a player with three accrued seasons in the league.

"He's a good player and, once he gets in there and learns the system, I think the Falcons will realize he can play for them," McElroy said.

Indeed, Chiaverini is typical of how the Falcons have approached trying to reshape the wide receiver position for 2002. The team has eschewed the pursuit of high-priced free agents and hopes to augment the position through modestly priced additions and with improvement from some of the young veterans already on the roster.

Because he is a physical receiver with good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), and a very good downfield blocker in the running game, Chiaverini should be a good fit in Atlanta. He is very much like another young Atlanta wideout, Brian Finneran, who will go to camp as the starting flanker.

It is not yet known if the Falcons view Chiaverini as a candidate at flanker or split end.

Chiaverini was a fifth-round choice of the Browns in the 1999 draft. As a rookie, he played in all 16 games and started eight, catching 44 passes for 487 yards and four scores. His playing time decreased, though, in 2000 and he was traded in 2001. For his career, Chiaverini has appeared in 42 games with 10 starts. He has 62 catches for 662 yards and seven touchdowns.

In a related matter, the Falcons have lost rookie wide receiver R.J. English for the entire 2002 season. English suffered a left knee injury last week and an MRI exam confirmed he tore the anterior cruciate ligament. English was an undrafted free agent from the University of Pittsburgh and had performed well in offseason practices.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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