Falcons Sign Ex-Cardinals, 49ers Defensive End & A Versatile Rookie

Shyheim Carter

Getty Shyheim Carter #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide attempts to tackle D'Andre Swift #7 of the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Falcons announced on Tuesday that they have signed on defensive end Pita Taumoepenu and rookie defensive back Shyheim Carter to their 16-man practice squad. The two slots became available after the Falcons released safety J.J. Wilcox while LB James Burgess signed with the Green Bay Packers.

Letting Wilcox go again is still kind of surprising but now that the Falcons have Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal back, so it makes sense.

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Taumoepenu’s NFL Resume

Last season, Tauoempenu spent 2019 with the Seattle Seahawks on their practice squad. Seattle re-signed him this past August, well for four days.

The 26-year-old was drafted in the sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. He played six games in his first two seasons in the bay area and recorded three tackles. After that, Taumoepenu spent some time with the Arizona Cardinals.

He is a product of the University of Utah. In college, he played 26 games, racking up 67 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

He didn’t have his best season until his senior year where he racked up 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Carter’s Career

Carter is a rookie defensive back who spent his college career with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He became a fan favorite easily after knocking his hometown team, LSU, before heading to Bama.

Following the 2020 NFL Draft, the New York Jets picked up Carter as an undrafted free agent.

He’s a quality addition as he has experience playing numerous positions under Nick Saban, including both the nickel and dime spots. In his last season, he tallied 43 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, with one interception and seven pass breakups).

He also had a nice junior year when he became more involved, tallying 44 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, with 10 passes broken up, and returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns.

Overall at Alabama, Carter played in 50 games and made 23 starts.

A fun fact is that he actually played quarterback in High School and was named the state’s Class 1A Offensive MVP before signing with the Tide.

Falcons Gave Wilcox Hope

Wilcox, 28, entered the summer of 2019 with hopes to be on the Falcons depth chart but it didn’t work out in his favor. Atlanta gave him another shot and re-signed him this heading into the 2020 offseason, but Wilcox surprisingly didn’t make the practice squad. He apparently had too many dropped passes in camp.

Over seven seasons, Wilcox has played in 77 NFL games (39 starts) and has made 233 tackles (173 solo), 16 pass breakups, six interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

The NFL vet was a third-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2013 NFL Draft. After four years in Dallas, he went on to have short stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Jets.

He had his most notable run with the Dallas Cowboys. In four seasons with Dallas, Wilcox recorded 212 tackles, 15 pass defenses, five interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in 38 starts as a safety.

He’ll land somewhere and maybe back in Atlanta again but as for now, we can only wish him well on his next journey.

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