Falcons still in talks to deal Duckett
ATLANTA -- Despite losing one suitor when the New York Jets acquired Kevan Barlow from San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons on Monday evening continued trade discussions involving tailback T.J. Duckett, the subject of trade rumors for much of the offseason.
Several league sources said Monday that Falcons officials were discussing with several clubs a possible trade of the fifth-year veteran, and making progress on some fronts.
There were reports last week that the Falcons had fielded inquiries about Duckett from at least four teams. One of those clubs was definitely the Jets, but New York instead dealt for Barlow on Sunday, sending a fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft to the 49ers for the five-year veteran back.
Apparently, though, there is no shortage of interest in Duckett, who is having an excellent training camp and preseason. And while Falcons brass suggested Monday the team might retain Duckett for 2006, Atlanta is engaged in substantive trade talks on multiple fronts. One possible scenario, albeit a long shot, was said to be a three-team deal.
It is not known what kind of price tag Atlanta has set for Duckett, the Falcons' first-round choice in the 2002 draft, and a player clearly coveted by some tailback-needy franchises. The Falcons rejected a proposal by the Pittsburgh Steelers on draft weekend in April, and there were reports at the time that Atlanta wanted a third-round choice for him.
The Falcons have been shopping veteran RB T.J. Duckett over the last few weeks in order to improve their depth at receiver. According to people I've talked to, a deal could go down in the next 48 hours. If it doesn't, it could take place before Tuesday, Aug. 29, when teams have to cut down to the 75-man limit.
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The Falcons are seeking a veteran wide receiver to fill the No. 3 spot, a vacancy that was created when Brian Finneran suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp. Atlanta likes its two young starters at the position, former first-round picks Michael Jenkins and Roddy White, but no one has stepped up to fill the void at the critical No. 3 spot. Coach Jim Mora acknowledged after Saturday's preseason loss at Green Bay that the Falcons "don't have" a proven third wide receiver right now.
In their trade discussions with the Jets, it was reported that Falcons officials were trying to acquire Justin McCareins, a five-year veteran who has lost his starting job in New York and who has clearly fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff there. The Falcons are also seeking a backup safety to bolster the position behind starters Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker.
Mora was particularly critical on Saturday of the performance of his backup safeties.
Duckett, 25, is not a good fit for the one-cut running game the Falcons emphasize and is viewed around the league more as a "downhill" runner. He is entering the final season of his original rookie contract, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, and the Falcons stand the prospect of losing him and not receiving any compensation unless they trade him.
But dealing Duckett would leave Atlanta with no proven backup to starter Warrick Dunn. The team chose Jerious Norwood of Mississippi State in the third round of this year's draft. The rookie has been impressive at times, but it is difficult to ascertain at this point if he is ready to step into the primary backup role.
In two preseason outings, Duckett has rushed for 96 yards on 15 carries. The 96 yards are the sixth most in the NFL in the preseason and Duckett's healthy 6.4-yard average is second best among players with at least 15 rushing attempts.
The former Michigan State standout, chosen 18th overall in the 2002 draft, has carried 552 times for 2,175 yards and 31 touchdowns in 54 career appearances, including 14 starts. His best season was in 2002, when he ran for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a backup, Duckett rushed for 500-plus yards in each of his first three seasons in the league, but dropped off to just 380 yards in 2005.
He has averaged nine rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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