Falcons lauded as best fit for Broncos free agent

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The Falcons have one glaring hole on the roster after a very busy first couple weeks of free agency. Most starting vacancies have been filled, but the left guard position shouldn’t be neglected.

The internal options are Matt Hennessy, Jalen Mayfield, and Justin Shaffer, but the Falcons will likely bring in some form of veteran competition. A combination of Hennessy, Elijah Wilkinson, Colby Gossett, and Chuma Edoga held down the position throughout the 2022 season, admirably, I might add.

The Falcons’ offensive line has some semblance of continuity. Four starters return along the front, with Hennessy still under contract, but the club could easily upgrade left guard. Wilkinson is an option, but another free agent on the market could be a better fit. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell identified a number of team fits for available players, pegging Dalton Risner and Atlanta.

I’m surprised there wasn’t more of a market for Risner, who has been a consistently effective guard since being drafted in the second round in 2019. Risner ranked 10th in run block win rate last season, and although he gave up too many sacks, he has committed just one holding penalty in four seasons. He would have made more money in a run-happy NFL 25 years ago, but he’s still an above-average starter, and plenty of teams need help at guard.

Possible deal: Three years, $21 million with the Falcons. Atlanta has invested a lot of money this offseason to re-sign former first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, but if coach Arthur Smith is going to move forward with Desmond Ridder at quarterback and run the football, Risner would be a major upgrade on what the team has put out at left guard over the past couple of seasons.

Jalen Mayfield wasn’t impressive in 2021 and then missed all of 2022 with a back injury, while Elijah WilkinsonMatt HennessyColby Gossett and Chuma Edoga each started games at left guard. Edoga, Gossett and Wilkinson are all free agents, and Risner would be a physical force for a team that wants to overpower defenses with its rushing attack.

Risner could bring durability to the position after the Falcons saw four players start games at the position throughout the 2022 season. He’s started at least 15 games per season since entering the league, 62 over the last four seasons.

Moreover, the free agent guard market hasn’t been too fruitful; Isaac Suemalo was the top name on the market and only garnered a three-year deal worth $24 million. Nate Davis and Ben Powers both eclipsed that mark but are comparable players.

Dalton Risner is a lesser player, so he shouldn’t draw close to those figures. $7 million per season isn’t the number I would land on like Barnwell. Suemalo is far and away a better player, and he’s only earning $1 million more per season? No, that’s not what the market is saying.

The Denver native is suspect in pass protection, which will always result in lesser contracts. But for Atlanta, it’s a great fit because he’s always been a great run blocker. The Falcons run the ball as much as any team in the league, and Risner would complement an ascending offensive line.

The Falcons could get away with bringing back Elijah Wilkinson, but Dalton Risner is undoubtedly an upgrade over him and anyone else Atlanta has under contract.

Photographer: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire
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