Falcons sign safety Schulters, lose Forney for season

Updated: November 8, 2006, 4:15 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- With their secondary playing poorly over the past month, the Atlanta Falcons moved to address the problem on Wednesday, signing eight-year veteran free safety Lance Schulters to a one-year contract that is believed to be for the league minimum base salary.

The addition of Schulters came with a price, however, as the Falcons placed starting right guard Kynan Forney on injured reserve for the rest of the season, to create a roster spot for the veteran safety.

Generally regarded as Atlanta's top offensive lineman, Forney has suffered through a chronic shoulder problem the past several weeks. Forney's right shoulder has popped out of joint in three of last five games, including on three separate occasions in the Oct. 22 overtime victory against Pittsburgh. The sixth-year veteran has tried playing with a harness, but that has not rectified the problem.

It is likely now that Forney, a terrific drive blocker and very adept at the zone-blocking scheme that the Falcons employ, will undergo surgery. The former University of Hawaii standout has appeared in 81 games and started in 75 of them. A seventh-round draft choice in 2001, Forney, 28, became a full-time starter during the second half of his rookie season, and has held the job ever since.

The loss of Forney means that Atlanta will be without both starting guards for Sunday's home game against the Cleveland Browns. Left guard Matt Lehr is serving the final game of a four-game league suspension for a violation of the NFL's steroid and related substances policy, but can return to the team next Monday.

Young players Tyson Clabo and P.J. Alexander have been filling in at guard.

Schulters, 31, is familiar to Falcons' head coach Jim Mora, because the two worked together in the past at San Francisco. Mora was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers during Schulters' four years (1998-2001) with the team. The two have stayed in touch and it has been rumored for more than a year that Schulters might eventually be reunited with his former coordinator.

Last season, Schulters started all 16 games for the Miami Dolphins, and registered 76 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and six passes defensed. Despite his solid effort in 2005, Schulters was not re-signed by the Dolphins and was not in training camp with any team this summer.

In stints with San Francisco (1998-2001), Tennessee (2002-2004) and Miami (2005), Schulters has 489 tackles, 7½ sacks, 19 interceptions and 49 passes defensed. The former Hofstra star has played in 107 games and is known as a steady defender in the interior secondary.

How the addition of Schulters affects the safety tandem of Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker, both of whom are in their first season with the Falcons, remains to be seen. The pair of veterans has started all eight games so far, and played well against the run, but struggled at times in pass defense.

The Falcons have surrendered 1,200 yards and eight touchdown passes in the past four outings. The unit now statistically rates 31st in the league.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.