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Cowboys land veteran linebacker Brooking to bolster defense

After 11 seasons in Atlanta, Keith Brooking is changing addresses. The veteran linebacker signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.

The deal is worth about $6 million -- with about $2.5 million guaranteed -- to provide a veteran defender familiar with coach Wade Philips at a position the Cowboys expect to lose at least one free agent.

Brooking, 33, has spent his entire career in Atlanta after he was the 12th overall choice by the Falcons in the 1998 NFL Draft and helped the team reach the Super Bowl as a rookie.

"It is with very mixed emotions that I am leaving the Atlanta Falcons to join the Dallas Cowboys," Brooking said in a statement. "I am sad to be leaving the Falcons organization, my teammates, my coaches, and of course, the great Falcons fans. However, I am excited about this new chapter in my career and rejoining my former coach Wade Phillips."

Brooking's agent, Pat Dye Jr., said "active" discussions were held with multiple teams, including the Falcons.

"This was a very difficult decision for Keith and came only after a lot of thought and deliberation," Dye said. "Although we had ongoing discussions with the Falcons, after weighing all the factors, Keith felt that it was in his best interest to sign with Dallas."

Brooking, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and Atlanta's leading tackler each of the last eight seasons, became a free agent after failing to work out a new contract with the Falcons.

"Keith defined the Falcons in so many ways: his tenure, his leadership on and off the field, his commitment to excellence and his many resulting accomplishments, his love for Atlanta, and so much more," Falcons owner and CEO Arthur Blank said in a statement. "He will always be a Falcon in the hearts of his teammates and our fans."

Brooking has spent his entire football career in the Atlanta area. He grew up in the southern suburbs and played his college ball at Georgia Tech before being drafted by the Falcons. He became a starter in 1999, and started 128 consecutive games since 2001.

"The Atlanta area is my home," Brooking said. "It will always be my home. Although, I will play for the Cowboys for the next few years, I will always be a Falcon at heart."

Phillips, the third-year Cowboys coach who will be his own defensive coordinator this season, was Atlanta's defensive coordinator from 2002-03.

Cowboys linebackers Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett are free agents, so getting Brooking was a key move.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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