The Falcons welcomed eight draft picks and a bevy of other free agent additions this offseason. The roster has taken shape, and the team is heading in the right direction, parting ways with the bloated contracts of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and others while extending Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett at more than reasonable price points.
Still, the roster remains one of the worst in the league as it stands today. Atlanta has patched up some holes with short-term solutions while adding real difference-makers through the draft — i.e., Kyle Pitts and Drake London. But the surrounding personnel is middling. It would be fair to say the Falcons could use an influx of talent at most positions, but a couple of units, in particular, desperately need some help as we approach mandatory minicamp.
The Falcons boast one of the worst lines in football. After surrendering 40 sacks last year, Atlanta is choosing to run it back with essentially the same squad. They did add to the position through the draft and free agency, but the front office didn’t invest heavily. Justin Shaffer was selected in the sixth round and is set to compete at left guard. Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkerson were brought in to compete with Kaleb McGary at right tackle. And Matt Hennessy‘s competition will be drawn from last year’s draft class in Drew Dalman.
So there is competition, but instead of iron sharpening iron, it’s more like lead sharpening lead. The Falcons are basically trotting out the same starting five, three of whom were some of the worst pass protectors in the league. Mayfield is the very worst in pass sets, Hennessy is the sixth-worst, and McGary rounds out the group as the ninth-worst lineman in pass protection. That’s three starters in the bottom ten. That’s a problem.
Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have been adamant regarding their team’s pursuit of winning and not tanking, but sending Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder out there behind this group suggests otherwise. Despite the sunken cost in Mayfield, the Falcons need to add a starting-caliber guard; he’s the weakest link of the unit… by far.
Interior defensive line
Extending Grady Jarrett made me feel better about this group, but things still look bleak. Ta’Quon Graham flashed at times but was mostly a non-factor during his rookie year, Marlon Davidson just hasn’t developed as many thought he would when he was selected in the second-round, and Anthony Rush is an afterthought in any scenario other than stuffing the run.
Though I believe Graham can develop into a rotational piece, there aren’t any proven options other than Jarrett. I don’t necessarily consider it as pressing as the offensive line, because only a couple of these guys are ever on the field at the same time. However, there’s a clear need along the interior. Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman would be excellent additions. And given Ryan Pace’s pull in the front office, the two former Bears are certainly in the cards.
Many probably thought wide receiver would be included; however, I believe the additions of Drake London and Bryan Edwards with Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson supplementing the passing game is more than enough weapons for Mariota or Ridder.