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Brooking signs with Dallas Cowboys, excited over new chapter

Veteran linebacker has experience playing in Phillips' 3-4 defense

01:37 AM CST on Sunday, March 1, 2009

By CALVIN WATKINS / The Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys filled a hole at inside linebacker Saturday when they signed veteran Keith Brooking to a three-year contract.

The free agent's deal is worth about $6 million with $2.5 million guaranteed. Brooking became a free agent when he couldn't work out a deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

In a statement, Brooking said he had "very mixed emotions" about leaving the Falcons for the Cowboys.

"However, I am excited about this new chapter in my career and rejoining my former coach Wade Phillips," he said.

Brooking, 33, had played his entire 11-year career with Atlanta and led the team in tackles for eight consecutive seasons.

Phillips was the Falcons' defensive coordinator in 2002 and '03 when Brooking put up career-high tackling numbers and earned consecutive Pro Bowl berths.

Brooking was the outside linebacker in Atlanta's 4-3 scheme last season but played the inside linebacker spot in Phillips' 3-4 defense.

The Cowboys had a need at inside linebacker because they don't expect to re-sign Zach Thomas, 35, who said he wanted to play elsewhere, and linebacker Kevin Burnett, 26, was allowed to test the market.

Burnett's agent, Ricky Lefft, said his client is still looking at teams.

The Cowboys also had modest interest in Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, but his price tag appears to be too high.

Brooking's agent, Pat Dye, said his client became a natural fit for the Cowboys because he's played in Phillips' defensive scheme before.

"Keith defined the Falcons in so many ways: his tenure, his leadership on and off the field, his commitment to excellence and his many resulting accomplishments; his love for Atlanta, and so much more," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. "He will always be a Falcon in the hearts of his teammates and our fans."

Canty visits Giants: Free agent defensive end Chris Canty visited the Giants on Saturday and is expected to visit Seattle today. Canty also has interest from Tennessee and San Francisco.

In the know: Keith Brooking

Born: Oct. 30, 1975

Hometown: Atlanta

College: Georgia Tech

Notable: A five-time Pro Bowl selection who started his last 128 games. ... He was the last player on Atlanta's roster that played on the 1998 Super Bowl team. ... Was named to the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. .. Is married, Holly, with one son, Logan, and one daughter, Juliette.

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