FLOWERY BRANCH - The Atlanta Falcons made two relatively surprising moves on Saturday, trading return specialist Allen Rossum to Pittsburgh and releasing place-kicker Billy Cundiff in favor of Matt Prater.
In meeting the NFL deadline to reduce their roster to 53 players, the Falcons now have just two active quarterbacks at a position that's been altered significantly after Michael Vick's indefinite suspension, the trade of Matt Schaub and D.J. Shockley's season-ending injury.
Joey Harrington will start at quarterback when Atlanta opens its first season under coach Bobby Petrino on Sept. 9 at Minnesota. Chris Redman, who hasn't played in an NFL game since 2003, is Harrington's backup quarterback, but the team needs a third-stringer to serve as the emergency backup against the Vikings.
When the league begins its waiver process today, the Falcons can sign a replacement for Shockley, who hurt his knee in a preseason game at Buffalo two weeks ago. Casey Bramlet has filled in as the third-stringer, but he was released along with 21 other players.
Prater kicked two fourth-quarter field goals in Atlanta's preseason victory over Baltimore on Friday.
Though he had been on the roster just 48 hours and has no NFL game experience, Prater was deemed an immediate improvement over Cundiff, who played for Dallas and New Orleans.
The Falcons acquired an undisclosed draft pick for Rossum, who spent the last five years with Atlanta and set an NFL record for punt return yards in a postseason game with 152 against St. Louis in January 2005. Second-year receiver Adam Jennings is the team's new return specialist.
Rossum set franchise records for kickoff return yardage (5,489), punt return yardage (1,723). Rossum's kickoff return total leads NFL active players and ranks fourth in league history.
'It's always tough to lose a person like Allen Rossum on your football team, however we feel confident in Adam Jennings' abilities as a returner,' general manager Rich McKay said in a statement. 'We feel this move is in the long term best interest of our club.'
Other offensive players placed on waivers Saturday were running backs Arlen Harris and Justin Vincent, receivers Vincent Marshall, Eric Weems, Otis Amey and Noriaki Kinoshita, tight ends George Cooper and Daniel Fells and linemen Bo Lacy, Kurt Quarterman, Frank Omiyale and P.J. Alexander. On defense, the Falcons released ends Nic Clemons and Paul Carrington, tackles Tommy Jackson and Darrell Shropshire, linebackers John Leake and Travis Williams, defensive backs Tony Franklin and Brent Grimes.