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Falcons’ on free agency: ‘Off to a good start’

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is pleased with the team’s start to free agency.

The Falcons are not expecting to land any big-name targets like last year, when they signed center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.

Since the end of the season, Dimitroff has stated that the team planned to re-sign their own players. Backup quarterback Matt Schaub, defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and tight end Levine Toilolo were re-signed Thursday, the start of the NFL’s new business year.

Schaub received a two-year, $9 million deal. Terms for Upshaw, Reynolds and Toilolo were not disclosed.

The team also signed defensive end Jack Crawford, who played 50 percent of the snaps for Dallas last season, to a three-year deal worth $10.3 million with $3.75 million in the first year.

“Crawford is strong and versatile and has the ability to play across the defensive line,” Dimitroff said. “We like his skill set and the physicality in which he plays the game with, and we feel he will add to our defensive line group.

“LaRoy and Levine are two guys that were integral parts to the Brotherhood that this team has built over the last year. LaRoy became a vocal leader for us, and filled in nicely at linebacker for us while being a key member of our special teams unit. Levine was another valued member for us on special teams, in addition to bringing a presence on offense in the run and pass game.”

The team also is working on a contract extension for cornerback Desmond Trufant and will have talks with running back Devonta Freeman in the spring. The parameters for Trufant’s deal are set, but likely won’t be finalized until later in the offseason like the big extensions the Falcons did for quarterback Matt Ryan in 2013 and Julio Jones in 2015, the team said.

The Falcons re-signed cornerback Robert Alford and right tackle Ryan Schraeder to contract extensions during the regular season.

“The plan we laid out for this offseason begins with re-signing our own players, and we are fortunate to get deals done with Courtney and Matt this morning,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement. “Courtney proved to be versatile in our defensive scheme and he will continue to play several roles along our defensive line.”

Schaub, 35, who was drafted by the Falcons in 2004, elected to stay with a winning team instead of going to total rebuild in San Francisco with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“We know the value of having an experienced backup at quarterback and (Matt) Ryan and Schaub work well together so it was important to keep that tandem together,” Dimitroff said.

The Falcons reportedly were interested in defensive end Nick Perry and defensive tackle Terrell McClain, but Perry re-signed with Green Bay and McClain signed with Washington. The Falcons are not believed to have enough money under the $167 million salary cap to sign former Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

“Coupling these moves with being able to secure Robert Alford and Ryan Schraeder long-term before the end of the season has us off to a good start when it comes to executing our plan,” Dimitroff said.

Schaub saw action in five games last season and will return to his backup role in 2017.

Upshaw, a former linebacker, was converted to defensive tackle last season and played some defensive end, too. He played in 13 games with five starts.

The Falcons allowed veteran Jonathan Babineaux, a veteran of 12 years, to become an unrestricted free agent and are reportedly set to release veteran Tyson Jackson.

The Falcons placed a second-round tender on wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, the team announced officially on Wednesday.

Gabriel’s agent had previously confirmed the move.

The Falcons also tendered exclusive-rights free agents: free agent Ricardo Allen, defensive tackle/guard Ben Garland and cornerback Akeem King.

Gabriel is in line to receive a hefty raise. He set to make $2.7 million after playing for $510,000 last season. He was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

He added a spark to the offense with his speed and toughness. As the third receiver behind Julio Jones and Sanu, Gabriel finished with 35 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns. Gabriel averaged 19 yards per catch, on nine catches, in the playoffs.

A tender offer gives the Falcons the right of first refusal if a player is offered a contract from other teams and draft compensation should the player sign elsewhere as a restricted free agent.

Allen, a converted cornerback, finished his second season as the starting free safety. Garland contributed on defense and offense last season. King, a converted safety, will get to continue his conversion to cornerback.

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