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Longtime Falcons linebacker Brooking becomes free agent

ATLANTA -- Keith Brooking, the last remaining player from Atlanta's Super Bowl team, became a free agent Friday after failing to work out a new contract with the Falcons.

The 33-year-old linebacker is a five-time Pro Bowler and the team's leading tackler each of the last eight seasons. But he struggled in pass coverage and was caught out of position when Arizona converted a third-and-16 to clinch its playoff victory over the Falcons.

Brooking has spent his entire football career in the Atlanta area. He grew up in the southern suburbs, played his college ball at Georgia Tech and was a first-round pick of the Falcons in 1998, helping the team reach the Super Bowl his rookie season.

As a backup linebacker, he made eight tackles in the NFC Championship Game at Minnesota, where Atlanta upset the Vikings.

Brooking moved into the lineup the following season and had started every game since the beginning of the 2001 season, a streak of 128 contests.

"There are a lot of moving parts at this time, so I do not wish to comment on my situation," Brooking said in an e-mail. "There will always be a huge place in my heart for the Falcons and the Atlanta community, regardless of what my future holds."

The Falcons declined comment on the negotiations with Brooking.

Earlier this week, Atlanta cut ties with veteran safety Lawyer Milloy, who started the last three seasons. Also becoming unrestricted free agents at 12:01 a.m. Friday: linebacker Michael Boley, cornerback Domonique Foxworth, and defensive end Chauncey Davis.

Boley and Foxworth stated most of last season, while Davis was a key backup.

The Falcons are planning an overhaul of their defense, especially the secondary. They are not expected to be major players in free agency, preferring to do most of their work through the draft.

A year ago, Atlanta made a big splash on draft day, landing starters Matt Ryan, Sam Baker and Curtis Lofton, along with key contributors Harry Douglas and Chevis Jackson.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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