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Considering the Falcons future of Joe Hawley

The Falcons' center should have a starting job sewn up in 2015, but will he be able to land a long-term deal with Atlanta?

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The center position should be considered settled for 2015, as Joe Hawley lines up as the starter, with Peter Konz and James Stone fighting to be his backup. You could maybe toss a free agent or draft pick in there, but Hawley's footwork makes him a nice fit for Kyle Shanahan's blocking scheme, so he's virtually assured to be the starter. The question becomes what happens with the position, and Hawley in particular, beyond 2015.

In his limited starts in 2014, Joe Hawley played well, with his characteristic bearded mean streak and agile feet serving him well as the anchor in the middle of the line. Unfortunately, he was only in four games before he suffered a season-ending injury, so he didn't have the chance to deliver a full season at that level of play. It's fair to say the line would have been better off with him, because as admirably as James Stone filled in given that it was his rookie season and he was a UDFA, Hawley's the far superior player at the moment.

It's odd to think that Hawley is just 26 years old, given that he's been with the team for five seasons and has started games at guard, earned a suspension and then rebounded to seize the starting center job this last year. But he is still a young player with the potential for a lot of good football ahead, which makes his current situation interesting.

And because Hawley is only under contract for one more year, it's worth asking what he needs to do in order to land a long-term deal. I'd say he needs to clock a healthy, effective season at center to ensure he lands a long-term deal from the Falcons, but it certainly helps that Shanahan's going to install something that's a lot friendlier to his particular skill set.

For this coming year, though, Hawley shouldn't face much in the way of competition. He'll be the starting center and he'll have the opportunity to make his stay in that position a long one. For many reasons, I hope he's able to do just that.