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Falcons sign former Jaguars QB Leftwich

FLOWERY BRANCH - The Atlanta Falcons signed former Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich on Tuesday, giving the team immediate depth and a potential contender for the starting job.

'First of all, I'm a football player and the last couple of weeks have been tough on me,' said Leftwich, who was cut the week before the season started by the Jaguars. 'I appreciate the opportunity and I look forward to doing whatever I can to help our team.'

Leftwich's agent, Tom Condon, said the former first-round draft pick passed a physical, worked out for the team and signed a two-year, $7 million deal. The 27-year-old Leftwich is set to join the Falcons for today's practice.

The Falcons needed help. Harrington, who took over as the starter when Michael Vick was suspended by the NFL, has lost his first two starts with Atlanta and the offense has scored only 10 points.

Harrington's other backup is Chris Redman, who has not played in an NFL game since 2003.

To clear a roster spot for Leftwich, the team released third-string quarterback Casey Bramlet, whose only professional experience came in Europe. The team lost another backup, D.J. Shockley, to a preseason knee injury.

'As I've said for some time, we've been looking to add a quarterback to the mix since D.J. Shockley's injury in the preseason,' coach Bobby Petrino said. 'Joey Harrington remains our starting quarterback and Chris Redman is still No. 2, but signing Byron Leftwich presented us a unique opportunity to add a veteran with tremendous experience to our quarterback group.'

Vick was suspended indefinitely last month following his guilty plea on a dogfighting charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 10.

Leftwich was cut by Jacksonville in a surprise preseason move when the Jaguars chose David Garrard as their starter. Ankle and knee problems have prevented Leftwich, who was taken seventh overall in 2003, from completing a full season recently. He missed 15 games the past two years, including 10 games with a bad ankle last year.

A poor showing in the preseason helped cost Leftwich his job in Jacksonville.

Leftwich was 19 of 38 for 226 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games. He was criticized for poor mechanics as he misfired on several passes and badly overthrew Dennis Northcutt on two deep routes against Green Bay.

Harrington has been sacked 13 times and Petrino has said the quarterback is holding the ball too long and showing a lack of confidence.

With Atlanta's pass protection problems, Leftwich, with limited mobility and a history of injuries, may not be a good match.

Harrington was 12-for-20 passing for 200 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 13-7 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.

Leftwich played in only six games last season, when he was 109 of 184 for 1,158 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.