Falcons sign veteran linebacker Howard

The Atlanta Falcons added a new face at linebacker Tuesday with the signing of veteran Thomas Howard.

The 30-year-old Howard, a former second-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders back in 2006, has 78 career starts from his five seasons in Raiders and two seasons in Cincinnati. He started one game for the Bengals last season before tearing his ACL in practice.

Howard, an outside linebacker known as a sure tackler and a solid cover man, will likely get his best shot to contribute on special teams, at least immediately. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan previously talked about how difficult it is for a player to sign late with the team and then immediately have an impact. Such was the case with veteran linebackers Omar Gaither and Jamar Chaney, both of whom signed with the Falcons on Sept. 17. Gaither started one game and had difficulties, while Chaney was waived Tuesday to make room for Howard.

The Falcons do have injury concerns in the linebacker rotation, however. Akeem Dent returned from an ankle injury against Tampa Bay but appeared to re-injure himself again while playing 31 snaps. And Stephen Nicholas suffered a thigh injury after playing just three snaps on special teams. Sean Weatherspoon, who was placed on short-term injured reserve with a foot injury, is targeting a return for the Week 11 game against the Bucs.

The Falcons also signed safety Sean Baker to the practice squad to fill the opening created after receiver Darius Johnson was elevated to the active roster.