Abraham to the Falcons?
ATLANTA -- In their marathon pursuit of New York Jets three-time Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham, the Atlanta Falcons have now reached the halfway point of the grueling race.
The Falcons on Friday reached an agreement with Abraham on a multi-year contract, a high-ranking team official and several league sources confirmed. The next step: Reaching a trade agreement with the Jets on appropriate compensation for the standout defensive player.
Clearly, though, the Falcons believe they can complete the deal. In fact, team officials indicated Friday they are confident that Abraham will land in Atlanta, to lend energy and a consistent weakside pass-rush threat to a defense that must improve for the Falcons to return to the playoffs.
Earlier on Friday, the Falcons reached a three-year, $6.01 million contract accord with unrestricted free-agent safety Lawyer Milloy.
"We're very comfortable with where we are at [with Abraham], and we think he is comfortable, too," one Falcons official said. "We've got a [contract] deal in place with him. Now we've got to deal with [the Jets]."
Abraham, 27, visited with Falcons officials and coaches Thursday and Friday. He had a physical exam administered by the Falcons' medical staff on Friday morning. Obviously, given that the Falcons have a contract agreement in place with Abraham, he passed the exam.
The Jets had been seeking coveted backup quarterback Matt Schaub and a second-round draft choice for Abraham, but the Falcons balked at those terms. Atlanta has been steadfast in its resolve not to include Schaub or its first-round pick in the 2006 draft, the 15th selection overall, in any trade packages. Instead, the Falcons have countered with several formulas in an attempt to satisfy Jets officials.
Notable is that the Jets on Friday afternoon acquired Washington Redskins backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey for a sixth-round pick in this year's draft. The addition of Ramsey may have been a sign that the Jets are now convinced they won't be able to pry Schaub away from the Falcons in an Abraham deal. Discussions between the two teams continued through Friday afternoon.
One other suitor, the Seattle Seahawks, remains in the Abraham sweepstakes. There were rumors in the league Friday afternoon that the Jets had agreed to send Abraham to Seattle for the Seahawks' first-round pick in the draft, the No. 31 selection overall. But those rumors proved unfounded.
The Seahawks, like the Falcons, must first satisfy Abraham on a long-term contract, and that might be a difficult proposition. Abraham, who makes his full-time home in nearby South Carolina, has indicated to friends and associates that he prefers to play in Atlanta, where he has family ties.
One of the NFL's premier outside rushers, Abraham was designated by the Jets as a franchise player for the second consecutive spring. That means the Jets essentially made him a one-year qualifying offer of $8.33 million. New York used the franchise tag a year ago, as well, to retain Abraham, and he missed the offseason programs and training camp before signing the one-year deal, worth $6.66 million just days before the start of the season.
Abraham has been saying for two years that he prefers a long-term contract but the two sides have not been able to strike a satisfactory deal.
In 16 games in 2005, Abraham registered 67 tackles, 10½ sacks, six forced fumbles, one recovery and two passes defensed. For his career, the former South Carolina star has 328 tackles, 53½ sacks, 18 forced fumbles, five recoveries and eight pass deflections in 73 games.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.