The Falcons go into the offseason looking to replace three players on their offensive line. The guard spot was a mess this season with both Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco hitting injured-reserve early on. In their place, Wes Schweitzer, Ben Garland, and Zane Beadles all suffered their lumps and should be regarded as nothing more than backups. If there is one guard I would not mind bringing back, it would be Andy Levitre on a short-term deal. But after suffering a torn triceps injury in back-to-back seasons, the front office is going to have to be extremely comfortable with his health going forward.
Along with Atlanta’s troubles at guard, Ryan Schraeder was a terror to watch at right tackle, a key reason as to why Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 42 times. The Falcons could save quite a bit of money by cutting him, which makes them players in the market for offensive tackles as well.
Paradis was having a fantastic 2018 in Denver before missing the final seven games with an ankle injury. However, prior to that, Paradis had started in 48 consecutive games. Those starts have primarily come as a center, but he has played some guard during his pro-career and should be able to make the transition in Atlanta. He’s a bulldozer in the run game, will be a noticeable upgrade over what the Falcons had in pass-protection, and should be somewhat affordable.
Another NFC West product that is currently playing center, Morse could move to guard and be a significant upgrade. He’s had some injury concerns over the past two seasons (a foot issue in 2017 and a concussion in 2018), which may affect is value, but the Chiefs have a lot of people that are expecting to get paid this offseason. Who knows if they will have the money to re-sign Morse. If they don’t, he should be near the top of the Falcons potential free-agent additions.
The Panthers could be wishy-washy about offering Williams a long-term deal after a season that saw him play in only one game, as could several other teams, allowing the Falcons to swoop in and make a deal. Although, he’s probably the best tackle option that will hit the open market, so I would not expect him to come at a discount.
Replacing Ryan Schraeder with Ja’Wuan James at right tackle would be a marvelous upgrade. He started in all sixteen games this past year for the Dolphins and ranked as the #34 offensive tackle in the entire league according to Pro Football Focus. The problem is, as it will be with most of these tackle options, they are going to be overpaid for their production. The Falcons would have to eat money by cutting Schraeder and hand out a fat contract for a player like James, making a deal unlikely.
The market for offensive tackles this offseason is razor thin, especially if Donovan Smith and Trent Brown are locked up by their respective teams. From Daryl Williams and Ja’Wuan James, we go to Jared Vedheer who will be entering his tenth season in the NFL. He’s far from elite, aging, and a candidate to be overpaid, but that’s the kind of offensive line free-agent market we are talking about this year.
As a whole, the offensive line and explicitly protecting Matt Ryan has to be Atlanta’s top priority going into the offseason. The disappointing part is there are not many quality free agents that will be available, and the ones that are will be candidates for massive pay raises.
If I had my choice, the Falcons would open up their wallets for Mitch Morse or Matt Paradis and convert them to the guard position. Then, I would focus on a right tackle in the draft. There are much younger and better options that can be had and won’t force the Falcons into a regrettable contract.