Source: Turner to get approximately $15M guaranteed from Falcons
The best available running back in the free-agent market has a new home.
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Michael Turner, who has been the Chargers' insurance policy for LaDainian Tomlinson, agreed to join the Falcons on Sunday. A source told ESPN.com's Michael Smith that Turner agreed to a six-year contract believed to be worth $34.5 million, with approximately $15 million guaranteed.
"It was really the whole organization and what they're trying to do," Turner told The Associated Press on Sunday when asked what influenced his decision. "Everybody is fresh with a clean slate and trying to build things back up. ... I did not come into the visit expecting to sign so soon. I didn't know what to expect."
Turner, a four-year veteran, is expected to play a more important role with the Falcons. He is projected as the power complement to speed back Jerious Norwood.
Turner said a factor in his decision was the experience of new Falcons coach Mike Smith as a defensive coordinator with Jacksonville when the Jaguars had success with tailbacks Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew sharing the carries.
"It will be interesting with a combo-type thing," Turner said. "Coach Smith from Jacksonville knows how that works, so hopefully it will be a good thing."
The addition of Turner likely signals the end of Warrick Dunn's time with the team. If the Falcons release Dunn, they will gain about $3 million in salary-cap space.
SI.com reported Monday that Dunn has requested his release from the Falcons.
Turner and a representative of his agent, James "Bus" Cook, wouldn't confirm contract numbers.
Turner (5-foot-10, 237 pounds) had 228 carries for 1,257 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons with San Diego. He also had three of the longest 11 carries in team history -- 83, 74 and 73 yards.
He has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his career.
Atlanta was Turner's first stop in the free-agency period, and Falcons officials made sure he didn't make any other visits.
Turner began his weekend visit Friday, and on Saturday he attended an Arena Football League game in Atlanta with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Smith. Blank also owns the AFL's Georgia Force.
Turner said he also had dinner with Blank.
"He's a great guy," Turner said. "He talked about what he's trying to do with the organization, and I respected what he said."
Dimitroff said the Falcons believe Turner is ready to be more than a backup.
"We are pleased to be able to add a very talented running back and a player who has produced at a high level in this league when given the opportunity," Dimitroff said. "We think he's ready to take the next step and have a more prominent role in an offense, and we are happy he decided that opportunity is going to be here in Atlanta."
Turner showed his potential as a starter when given the chance to fill in for Tomlinson.
Turner rushed for 316 yards on 71 carries last season and added 164 yards on 43 carries in the playoffs.
In a Week 5 game against Denver, Turner set a career high with 147 yards rushing, including a 74-yard touchdown run, in the Chargers' 41-3 win.
It was Turner's third career 100-yard game.
"Besides being a quality football player, Michael Turner is a quality person," Smith said. "He is the type of player we are looking for to help build our football team. I'm excited that he is joining the Atlanta Falcons."
The Falcons already have added four free agents. The team also agreed to terms with tight end Ben Hartsock of Tennessee on Sunday.
Hartsock (6-4, 265) is a four-year veteran who was drafted in the third round in 2004 by Indianapolis and had 12 catches for 138 yards with Tennessee last season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
2008 FREE AGENCY
NFL teams began shopping for free agents on Feb. 29, with approximately 320 players available. Randy Moss (right), one of the top free agents available, re-signed with the Pats.
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