The Falcons are entering a pivotal stage in their rebuild. For the first time in years, the club has breathing room to work in free agency and add some real talent to the roster. There isn’t a single position group in Atlanta that doesn’t need either top-end, starting talent or depth.
Despite boasting the second most cap space in the NFL this offseason, the Falcons are guaranteed a competitive roster. Spending money just because you have it is never wise. I could argue that rolling over cap space to 2024 would be a better allocation of resources in some cases. Frivolously handing out lucrative contracts to free agents will end the Falcons’ rebuild before it even begins.
The Falcons have several starters heading for free agency, which means Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith will have big decisions to make — either replacing or re-singing players like Rashaan Evans, Isaiah Oliver, Lorenzo Carter, and Kaleb McGary, to name a few. Some are more likely to return to Atlanta than others, and none are more polarizing among Falcons fans than McGary, who recently made PFF’s NFL Free Agency 2023: Buyers Beware List.
The Atlanta Falcons fielded the league’s most run-heavy offense this season, calling a run play on 50.1% of their snaps. They were the only team in the league to run the ball more than they passed it.
That makes life easier for their offensive linemen, as does the rushing threat a quarterback like Marcus Mariota poses. McGary earned an 86.6 overall grade and a 91.6 run-blocking grade this season — but before committing big money to him, teams will have to ask themselves how much of that was created by one of the most unusual offenses in the league.
McGary’s PFF pass-blocking grade came in at just 66.9, and he allowed six sacks despite playing in the league’s most run-heavy attack. That’s something that could easily be exposed in a tougher offense somewhere else next season.
It’s no secret why Kaleb McGary experienced the best campaign of his career. The Falcons accentuated his skillset. He’s a mauler in the run game, and the Falcons played to it. He’ll never be Trent Williams in pass sets, but in Arthur Smith’s system, where he’s not put onto an island play after play, McGary can hold his own.
Still, that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that he’s still not a ‘good’ pass blocker. The Falcons will likely have to pony up to retain McGary because there isn’t an obvious replacement. There’s nobody under contract, and McGary might be the best right tackle on the open market. Mike McGlinchey is an option but provides a similar skill set.
The team could always draft his replacement by selecting someone like Broderick Jones or Paris Johnson, but the Falcons’ best player available philosophy could make that unattainable. The Falcons might have to slightly overpay for McGary’s services because of a dry market.
Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire