Falcons named best free agent fit for veteran lineman

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The Falcons’ 2023 roster is the deepest since the new regime took over. The running back room is arguably the best in the league, and the defensive front will feature prominent starters from a year ago in rotational roles this year. However, there are a couple of outliers.

The linebacker core is rather thin. The Falcons are confident in Nate Landman and Tae Davis because they just waived Mykal Walker, who had more starting experience than anyone in the position group. However, it’s not as concerning as the offensive line.

Atlanta returns four of five starters from a year ago, as well as a second-round pick in line to start at left guard in Matthew Bergeron. It’s a great group and one that is primed to be one of the better units in football. Still, a couple of nagging injuries have highlighted the lack of depth.

Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman are banged up, which likely means Ryan Neuzil or someone even less inspiring will assume the starting center position. Even then, Hennessy is the only serviceable interior backup assuming Bergeron wins the starting left guard position.

What’s even worse is the lack of options at swing tackle.

Ethan Greenidge was primed to win that job but recently suffered a severe injury and was carted off the field.¬†Most recently, it’s been Jalen Mayfield taking those reps. He looked like a revolving door against the Dolphins and shouldn’t be the first tackle off the bench for a team with playoff aspirations.

With almost $12 million available in cap space, the Falcons should absolutely bolster the offensive line depth. Conveniently, Bleacher Report named Atlanta the best free agent destination for someone who could fill one of those voids — Andrew Norwell.

Andrew Norwell has only been a free agent for a few weeks. The Washington Commanders released him before their veterans reported to training camp. He had been on the team’s physically unable to perform list since May.

If Norwell is healthy enough to practice, he should find a new home before Week 1 of the upcoming season. Though the veteran guard is far removed from his 2017 All-Pro campaign, he’s a low-end starter with almost a decade of experience primarily at left guard.

Norwell could bolster the interior of the Atlanta Falcons offensive line with Matt Hennessy battling a leg injury.

Head coach Arthur Smith told reporters that the team will evaluate Hennessy day to day.

We’re just going to see day to day. [I’m] kind of stating the obvious, when you’re dealing with something that’s recurring, you know, we go day to day. We’ll just treat it and see how the week goes. A lot of times, guys get other opinions, but we’re just going to be safe with it and see where it goes…Matt’s trying to win a job. But we got to be smart, he’s got to make the best decision and we have to do what’s right for the team.”

Matthew Bergeron could earn the starting job at left guard, but he’s a rookie who’s making the transition from tackle to the interior, which may come with a lot of growing pains. Instead of rushing him into the starting role out of necessity, Norwell could fill a short-term void.

To make this potential need even more pressing, following Monday’s practice, which Hennessy was absent from, Arthur Smith didn’t have exactly encouraging news on the versatile interior lineman.

There are other options available as well. Ben Jones might be 34 but is coming off his first ever Pro Bowl and has experience starting at guard and center. Dalton Risner and Gabe Jackson are options at guard, but the swing tackle position may be even more important to patch up.

Jake Matthews has been an iron man, and Kaleb McGary hasn’t missed much time at all since joining the Falcons. However, every team in the NFL needs three tackles, and Jalen Mayfield cannot be the answer. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone becomes available when roster cuts come, and the Falcons pounce.

Regardless, it’s much more important than off-ball linebacker and deserves a significant allocation of what’s left of the club’s salary cap space.

Photographer: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
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