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Falcons sign ex-49ers safety Heard

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (March 18, 2005) -- The Atlanta Falcons signed safety Ronnie Heard to a one-year contract, moving to fill a spot in their secondary.

Heard started 14 games for San Francisco last season and is well-known to Falcons coach Jim Mora and secondary assistant Brett Maxie, who both came to Atlanta from the 49ers.

Last season, Heard had a career-high 79 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and six passes defended. In five seasons with the 49ers, he started 24 games and made six interceptions.

"He really likes Coach Mora, knows the system inside and out," said Jeff Nalley, Heard's agent.

Heard will compete for a starting job in the secondary. The Falcons released safety Cory Hall in a cost-cutting move after reaching the NFC championship game last season.

The Falcons also are in the running for linebacker Edgerton Hartwell of the Baltimore Ravens, who visited Flowery Branch this month. The Seattle Seahawks appear to be the other team in contention.

"We're in negotiating stages with two teams," said Harold Lewis, Hartwell's agent. "I hope something gets resolved very, very quickly. I know where he wants to go and would like to play."

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