This wasn't supposed to happen to Gabe Carimi. He was a highly-regarded left tackle coming out of Wisconsin who landed in Chicago, a team in desperate need of a franchise left tackle. He was supposed to succeed, and he hasn't.
The reasons for that are complex. Between scheme changes and knee injuries paired with simple ineffectiveness, Carimi's stint in Chicago was a forgettable one. He was swapped to Tampa Bay for a sixth round pick in 2013 before being released last week after failing to make an impact at guard. The Falcons are signing him at a crossroads in his career, because utter failure with one of the league's worst offensive lines could represent his last chance in the NFL.
Make no mistake, though: This is the perfect landing spot for Gabe Carimi, for three reasons.
- He's landing with Mike Tice. You know Tice was lobbying for Carimi in Chicago, and he had to be lobbying for him here. Tice wants at least a handful of players he's comfortable with, and he's got to believe that if not for injury, Carimi would have been a fine tackle in Chicago. For that reason, I suspect the Falcons will give him some run at right tackle, though you certainly can't rule out guard with the holes on this roster.
It's worth remembering that this will only be Carimi's fourth season in the NFL, and that he's still just 26 years old. Tice isn't completely delusional to think he's got a shot at turning his career around.
- This is a deeply unsettled line. I've penciled Peter Konz in at center and Lamar Holmes at right tackle, with a free agent right guard entering the picture at some point. There's absolutely no reason Carimi can't compete for a starting gig at right guard or right tackle, and he has the innate talent to stick as a backup even if that doesn't work out. The team will add talent to this line, which will make the sledding tougher, but unless they sign unquestioned starters at RG and RT, Carimi has a shot.
- The Wisconsin connection. Carimi played with Mike Tice's son and will join fellow Badgers Peter Konz and Bradie Ewing on the Falcons roster in 2014, assuming Ewing's injury woes don't cost him a roster spot. He shouldn't have much trouble making friends, at least.
It's worth noting that many had the Falcons connected to Carimi in the 2011 NFL Draft, before they traded up for Julio Jones. It may go down as little more than a depth signing, but if Carimi's going to succeed anywhere in the NFL, Atlanta might be it.