How much will it cost for Falcons to franchise tag Kaleb McGary?

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The Falcons have several impending free agents that could warrant new deals. The front office and coaching staff will have to mull over whether Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans, and Olamide Zaccheaus, among others, earned a second contract. But there’s none more pressing than Kaleb McGary.

After having his fifth-year option declined, the former first-round pick is set to test free agency following a career year in 2022. McGary rivals Mike McGlinchey as the top right tackle on the free agent market, so the Washington product won’t be cheap.

He’s in line for a lucrative multi-year deal, which rightfully gives some Falcons fans pause. Despite turning in an impressive season, McGary has been anything but reliable in the years prior. The Falcons’ run-heavy offense — runs on 50.1% of snaps — made life easier on McGary, as well as having a mobile quarterback like Marcus Mariota.

Kaleb McGary is a road grader, but his pass blocking still leaves a lot to be desired. In an offense that made it as easy as possible to protect the passer, McGary still surrendered six sacks. Before committing big money to him, the Falcons better be sure he’ll continue this trajectory in his development.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many options outside of McGary in free agency, but there could be a few replacements in the 2023 draft class. Broderick Jones and Paris Johnson Jr. are two candidates that interest me; however, nobody should expect the Falcons to target a particular prospect because of a need. The club drafts BPA. If it just so happens to line up with a need, that’s great. But Falcons fans shouldn’t expect to land a tackle because they don’t want McGary back.

Franchise tagging McGary could be a potential solution. In that scenario, the Falcons could groom his replacement without thrusting him into a starting role immediately. It would also allow Atlanta to assess McGary one more season before deciding whether or not to commit to him long-term. It might make him more expensive in the end if he turns in another impressive season, but it’s worth it in my eyes because McGary isn’t someone I’d hitch my wagon to just yet.

Instead of giving him a three- or four-year deal, the Falcons could place the franchise tag on McGary, draft a potential successor, or revisit this situation in 2024 through free agency or the draft. According to Albert Breer, that will cost the Falcons just north of $18.2 million next season.

There’s no other obvious franchise tag candidate for the Falcons, so fans don’t have to worry about ‘wasting’ it on Kaleb McGary. A long-term deal might cost less than $18.2 million per year, but the tag would prevent the potential mistake of committing to him long-term.

Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

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