The Atlanta Falcons appeared on the cusp of getting Marcus McNeill when he said he was coming in for a visit with the team. The Falcons turned around and denied there was a visit set up, and we've not heard a peep since.
Does this mean the Falcons are not in on McNeill? Nope. You shouldn't count them out a month or two or three down the line, either. Given that left tackle is arguably one of the team's two biggest needs going into the 2012 season, you have to believe there's some passing interest. Even with Mike Smith's undying support of Sam Baker, it's not entirely out of the question that McNeill gets a cup of coffee from the team.
Fortunately for those who want McNeill, the market isn't doing him any favors.
There are a couple of factors working against McNeill and working for interested teams, if the Falcons are indeed one of them.
- McNeill is coming off a major injury. Teams are leery of neck injuries, and for good reason. The longer he's out there because the injury is a concern, the more his price falls.
- There aren't a ton of teams looking for a left tackle right now, especially one with his history. It's telling that the only team that has had him in for a confirmed visit was the Lions, who have a 600-year-old Jeff Backus manning the spot in fossilized form. He doesn't have a ton of leverage to use right now.
The best bet for McNeill is that he'll sign sometime after the draft, when teams have figured out what they can and cannot get for offensive line help. The Falcons should be able to snare him for significantly less money than you'd be inclined to think if they can just wait out the market, and given that his market appears to be the Lions (who had him in for a visit and let him leave without a contract) and possibly the Falcons, that
The biggest question now is whether they really want McNeill. Given the competition at the position, I remain hopeful that they'll kick the tires on the guy. If he's not healthy enough to beat out Sam Baker and/or Will Svitek, at least they brought in the competition, and if he's truly healthy, he's a valuable reserve even so.
I suggest taking a deep breath and waiting a couple of months. There's no guarantees in free agency, but you just might be pleasantly surprised.