Will the Falcons re-sign Kaleb McGary or draft a tackle?

007220918685 atl at lar

The Falcons have more cap space entering this offseason than the team has had in years. That figure currently sits just north of $70 million but could easily balloon to over $80 million if Atlanta severs ties with Marcus Mariota, which I expect to happen. However, Atlanta only has 57 players under contract for the 2023 season, so there will have to be additions. And one of those areas is at a premium position, with Kaleb McGary set to test free agency.

The team doesn’t have any obvious candidates on the roster that could replace the former first-round pick next year, leaving them with two options. The front office could potentially fall into a situation in the draft where a starting-caliber right tackle is within reach, which I would support. Or Terry Fontenot could elect to re-sign McGary after not exercising his fifth-year option.

There is no clear upgrade available on the free agent market; in fact, Kaleb McGary could very easily be the top free agent right tackle this cycle. Orlando Brown is the only obvious tackle upgrade, but it’s pretty unrealistic for the Falcons to land him. Chiefly, he’s a left tackle and will likely refuse to play on the other side in Atlanta, and it’s out of the question to ask Jake Matthews to switch sides.

Mike McGlinchey isn’t an upgrade. Isaiah Wynn is a left tackle; Andre Dillard is going to walk for a reason and is a left tackle. As I said, there is no turning to the free agent market to replace Kaleb McGary, and honestly, he deserves a new deal.

For as much warranted flack as the Washington product has received since being drafted, he’s been a revelation in his fourth year. Development in the NFL is never linear, and playing offensive tackle is a difficult thing to do in today’s league. McGary has transformed himself into a menacing run blocker and an average but reliable pass blocker. In Arthur Smith’s offense, he turned in an excellent campaign. PFF has Atlanta’s tackle rated as the fourth-best player at his position, surrounded by some pretty impressive names.

Nobody in football earned themselves as much money as Kaleb McGary did this season. In hindsight, I’m sure the Falcons would’ve liked to have him signed in 2023 under his fifth-year option, which would’ve paid him just north of $13 million, a bargain for a player at his position.

Now, he’ll likely command a multi-year deal as he hits the open market as the current top free agent right tackle. There’s always a chance the Falcons replace him with a rookie, though. Broderick Jones and Paris Johnson Jr. are two intriguing prospects. I honestly wouldn’t mind the scenario where either Jones or Johnson replaced McGary, preferably the National Champion Georgia Bulldog.

One thing we know about this regime is they won’t be willing to reach on any potential prospect because of a need. Terry Fontenot has said the words best player available hundreds of times since becoming the team’s GM, and you can expect that strategy to continue in 2023, regardless of the roster’s needs. If Johnson, Jones, or another tackle prospect intrigues the organization, they’ll select him. But they won’t go into the draft with the preconceived notion they’re coming away with one.

Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

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