|Friday, February 28
Updated: March 25, 4:07 PM ET
Falcons reach agreement with Smith, Finneran
By Len Pasquarelli
ATLANTA -- Moving to lock up two of their better young veterans, the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday reached contract agreements with defensive end Brady Smith and wide receiver Brian Finneran.
Smith, 29, was entering the final season of a four-year contract, was due a $500,000 roster bonus on Saturday, and in jeopardy of being released if he did not restructure his deal.
Instead two sides came to an accommodation that is beneficial to both.
The seven-year veteran dropped his base salary for 2003 from $2.475 million to the NFL minimum of $650,000, and added three more years to the contract. The resultant four-year contract is worth about $10 million and it saves the Falcons cap space. Between the new base salary and the signing bonus, Smith will still earn the $3 million in compensation due him in '03.
He started 14 games in 2002, recorded a career-best 39 tackles and also had 6½ sacks.
Finneran had a breakout season, starting all 16 games, and catching 56 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns. The financial details of the deal were not immediately available, but the fourth year of the contract will void if Finneran achieves predetermined performance levels.
Although he did not become a starter until last season, the lanky Finneran, 27, was a "go to" receiver for the Falcons. While he lacks deep speed, he is an excellent intermediate range threat.
Finneran was set to become a restricted free agent and, had the two sides not reached an agreement, Atlanta would have retained a right of first refusal by making him a qualifying offer. Signing him to the long-term deal actually reduces his cap number.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.