The Atlanta Falcons are losing one of their top special-teams players Mike Ford to the Cleveland Browns via free agency according to a report from Ian Rapoport.
“Falcons CB Mike Ford, a special teams ace, is signing with the Browns on a 1-year deal worth up to $2.25M, source said,” Rapoport reported on Twitter.
Ford was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of SE Missouri State by the Detroit Lions in 2018. He played three years in Detroit before hooking up with the Denver Broncos in 2021.
He failed to make the Broncos team last year and the Falcons added him as cornerback depth and a special teams player…. where he exceled.
Ford was one of the top gunners in the NFL on punt coverage. He played just 83 snaps on defense for Atlanta, but he was involved in 361 snaps on special teams… a career high.
Ford’s departure could be lessened by the arrival of Mack Hollins from the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night. The 6’4 and 220 pounds receiver signed for similar money as Ford. He had a breakout year with the Raiders last year with 57 catches for 690 yards, but he was a core special-teams player his previous-two seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
The Falcons have prioritized special teams since general manager Terry Fontenot took over as general manager prior to the 2021 season.
They signed Cordarrelle Patterson and drafted Avery Williams. Patterson set the NFL record for kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career with his return against the Bears last year.
Williams led the NFL in punt returns by some distance last year at 16.2. Next closest was 13.2 yards by Tremon Smith and Kalif Redmond of the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions respectively.
Smith and Redmond were closer to finishing 20th in return average than second.
The Falcons invested in punter Bradley Pinion with a three-year deal this offseason, and kicker Younghoe Koo is one of the top players at his position.
Ford will be missed flying down the sidelines on kickoff and punt coverage, but the Falcons special teams units are still seeing plenty of attention from this administration.