One of the more under the radar signings of the offseason was Justin McCray, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. The 27-year-old offensive lineman has been a journeyman of sorts, beginning his NFL career back in 2014 with the Tennessee Titans after joining them as an undrafted free agent. He never played in a game for Tennessee, however, spending the year on the practice squad and was eventually waived the following summer.
With no other NFL offers, McCray headed to the now extinct Arena Football League, making two stops — one with the Orlando Predators and one with the Tampa Bay Storm. But in 2017, he finally made his way back to the NFL, signing on with the Green Bay Packers and making the 53-man roster. Before you know it, he was starting at the highest level, following an injury to Brian Bulaga in Week 2. His first taste of NFL action was at tackle — which speaks to his versatility — against who else but the Atlanta Falcons. McCray performed admirably, even though his team was walloped, and went on to make eight starts that season (at three different positions) — the most of his career.
McCray appeared in 12 games (all at right guard), including five starts, the following year for Green Bay, and posted the highest PFF grade of his career — a respectable 64.0. As a free agent last offseason, he signed with the Cleveland Browns, playing in 15 games (4 starts).
In an ideal world, McCray doesn’t see the field very often for the Falcons, but he’s a more quality and less expensive option than Wes Schweitzer, who he is replacing. As things stand now, he will be competing for the starting job at left guard along with Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, and Matt Gono. Brown and Carpenter may be making significantly more money, but judging by their performance in 2019, nothing should be handed to them. A lot of this could also change if the Falcons decide to bring in even more competition via the draft. But of course, injuries are almost a guarantee across the line at some point in the season. McCray’s versatility will allow him to fill in wherever he is needed. It’s not a flashy signing, but it’s necessary depth at a position of need. In the event his number is called upon, he should be — at the very least — serviceable.
Here’s an interview with McCray and Atlanta Falcons team reporter Kelsey Conway:
Compete and ready to make an impact‼️
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 1, 2020