Falcons rookie Houston expected to fill Webster's role
ATLANTA -- Closing the book on one of the most ill-advised free agent acquisitions in recent franchise history, the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday terminated the contract of veteran cornerback Jason Webster, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The move, which was not unexpected given the Falcons' new direction, ends a three-year tenure that was marked by injuries and inconsistency. It came one day before the Friday morning start to the first mandatory minicamp under new coach Bobby Petrino.
During the three-day minicamp, the Falcons are expected to insert rookie Chris Houston of Arkansas, a second-round choice in the draft two weeks ago, into the starting unit. He will start opposite two-time Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall and should give Atlanta its best pair of cover defenders in several years.
Webster, 29, is a seven-year veteran.
The former Texas A&M star, who entered the league as a second-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2000 draft, signed with the Falcons as an unrestricted free agent in the spring of 2004. Atlanta was seeking a veteran corner at the time, but Falcons management panicked when so many quality players signed with other teams in the opening days of that year's free agent period.
Largely on the recommendation of then-head coach Jim Mora, who was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach in San Francisco during Webster's time with the 49ers, the Falcons signed him to a six-year, $18 million contract that included a $7 million signing bonus. The Falcons awarded Webster the lucrative contract despite the fact he was coming off a 2003 season in which he appeared in just five games because of injuries.
Webster's injury history continued with the Falcons and, in his three seasons in Atlanta, he played in just 33 games and started 29 contests. He notched only four interceptions and 16 passes defensed. His best season came in 2005, when he had 91 tackles in 15 games, but he followed that up with only eight appearances in 2006.
With Mora fired at the end of the 2006 season, Webster lost an ally, and it was clear that his days with the team were numbered. The selection of Houston in the draft two weeks ago all but sealed his fate.
There were three seasons remaining on Webster's contract with the Falcons, at base salaries of $2 million (2007), $2.5 million (2008) and $3 million (2009).
For his career, Webster has 397 tackles, 11 interceptions, 43 passes defensed, one-half sack, six forced fumbles and one recovery. He has appeared in 86 games, with 72 starts.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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