The news yesterday that Elijah Wilkinson has signed with the Cardinals raised even more concerns regarding the Falcons situation at left guard. They currently have three rostered options, and to say they are far from inspiring is a gross understatement.
Jaylen Mayfield was a third-round selection in 2021 and started for the Falcons as a rookie, but that’s about the only good thing that can be said about him. He was arguably the worst offensive lineman in football, and he lost his job to the veteran journeyman Wilkinson last offseason. Matt Hennessy provides a little more hope than Mayfield, but he remains a liability in pass sets. If he’s to take over the reins as the starting left guard, he must improve in that area. The Falcons also have 2022 sixth-round selection Justin Shaffer out of Georgia, but he was primarily a practice squad player last season. It’s hard to imagine him starting, and playing well, in his second season.
I have all the faith in the world in Arthur Smith and offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford, who have both been instrumental in turning what was a piss-poor offensive line a couple of years ago into something well-respected. Perhaps they do believe in their ability to develop their in-house players enough to go into the season with their current group, but I think it’s much more likely they still add another body, whether it be through free agency or the draft.
In terms of free agents, there’s not much left at this point following Wilkinson’s signing. Dalton Risner is a name several people have linked to the Falcons as a fit because of their need and what he brings to the table as a run blocker, but he’s also not particularly reliable in pass sets. After that, it’s even more bleak. Rodger Saffold has a connection to Arthur Smith from his days in Tennessee, but he wasn’t that great in Buffalo and is 34-years-old. He would be a quality veteran addition to the competition, but I’m not sure if he would be much better than what the Falcons currently have on the roster.
Atlanta could also turn to the draft in search of a replacement. However, not a lot of options make sense in the first round unless they believe one of the top tackles in the draft can kick inside to guard and start as a rookie. Many scouts think Peter Skoronski would be better suited as a guard because of his shorter arm length, but it’s tough enough for a rookie to come in and succeed from day one. It’s even more difficult when asking them to switch positions.
There’s also the possibility other veteran options hit the market later in the offseason that the Falcons might favor. I do expect the position to be added to in some capacity, though. Offensive line is critical to the success of Arthur Smith’s offense, and I doubt they leave it unaddressed between now and the start of the season.
Photo: Photographer: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire
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