As the 2012 season was nearing an end, former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora made it clear that it would be his last year with New York. Wednesday night that became official when Umenyiora agreed to a two-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
"It's a great team. It's a great organization," said Umenyiora of his new team. "You don't get this opportunity that often to leave a good situation and come to a great situation."
Umenyiora signed a two-year deal that's worth $8.5 million, ending a 10-year relationship with the Giants that was up and down over the last couple of years over contract talks. He had an opportunity to speak to Giants GM Jerry Reese Wednesday morning.
"Me and Jerry are cool, man. We've always been cool," said Umenyiora. "Jerry is my guy. Obviously, if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even ben here now. The team did a comprehensive amount of research on me. They wanted to know what kind of person I was, so obviously they had to talk to Jerry Reese, as well as my coach, and they had nothing but positive things to say."
Umenyiora's playing time over the last few years has been limited. In some instances it has been to injury, and in others because of the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul.
"Obviously they have some very good football players there with Jason [Pierre-Paul] coming in and Justin Tuck being who he is, obviously I wasn't able to play as much as I would have liked, but there was just no way you could have put all of us on the field at the same time," said Umenyiora. "You're only going to be able to produce as much as you're out there on the football field, and I wasn't out there on the football field as much as I was accustomed to, but in the same respect I think it was just setting me up for the situation here.
"Obviously I'm a guy of tremendous pride and I'd like to be on the football field more. I understand the situation and I have nobody to blame. It is what it is. It's a great organization there; a great cast of characters, great defensive ends and I was just part of that rotation. Not everybody is as fortunate to have that high caliber of defensive ends on their football team and we just happened to have three or four. They [Falcons] have some great players here also and I'll be able to come here and help."
Signing with Atlanta is not just an opportunity of starting over or moving on. For Umenyiora he also saw this as a dream for him and his family.
"This is where I live. This is where my family stays. This is where my son lives. This is home for me," said Umenyiora. "I plan on living for the rest of my life, so it was almost a no-brainer. This is a team I feel needs or could use a player like myself, and to step into this situation I wouldn't allow myself to dream this big of where I would land in, I wouldn't even allow myself to think of this because it was almost too good to be true. I'm just happy to be in this situation and I'm going to give my heart to the city."
Umenyiora said he felt a sense of veteran responsibility after talking with Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith. He does have two Super Bowl rings.
"A lot of times being able to get to that game and being able to win that game isn't even about the coaches or the organization. this team is probably the most talented team I've seen in my life probably, but it's not going to be about coaching. It's going to be about what the players are going to do," said Umenyiora. "You need that veteran leadership. You need those guys that have been in those big games who can tell you exactly what happened. There's a lot of tremendous players here and a lot of veteran leadership on this football team already so we're all going to get together and somehow I'll find a way for this team to get this done."
Umenyiora is ready for this new chapter in his career.
"It was weird having a son that's a Falcons fan, but it is what it is," said Umenyiora. "This is where I plan on living the rest of my life. I wouldn't even allow myself to dream this big."
You can follow Kelsey O'Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell