Falcons fans were shocked when the team made a move after the final preseason game to trade for Andy Levitre. The veteran from Buffalo and Tennessee had not played well in recent years, though the move away from a ZBS was thought to be a potential reason for his decline. During the 5-0 start, it was the combination of Levitre, Person and Chester that surprised people the most. They helped turn Devonta Freeman into a household name and put the Falcons back in the playoff conversation. But how did his season look as a whole?
An up and down season
The reality is that Levitre had an up and down year for the Falcons. Though he would grade out positively in PFFs metrics, it was his great run-blocking score (+11.8) making up for his poor pass blocking (-4.7). That doesn't even take into account his numerous penalties, which often cost the team critical yardage. Levitre would end up giving up only 2 sacks, 4 hits and 37 hurries on the season.
Was he worth a 6th round pick? The verdict is still out, really. If he can improve in 2016, then the answer will probably be yes. If we get more of what we got in 2015, that pick may be hard to justify.
When the team traded for the veteran, the first thing they did was restructure his big contract. For 2016, Levitre carries a 5.375M cap hit, which is on the "pro bowl" end of contracts for guards. Cutting him would mean over 4M in dead money, but roughly a 1.2M savings in cap space. His 2017 cap hit increases to 6.6M while his 2018 cap hits an uncomfortable 8.4M.
It's clear from the contract that the team saw Levitre as a two year stop-gap solution, with the potential to move on after just one year if they didn't like what they saw. The third and fourth year numbers are more than you'd want to pay for an aging offensive lineman, though the 2017 cap hit is not entirely disgusting.
The Falcons really need to upgrade all 3 positions on the interior of the line. The reality is that it is very hard to do that in one off-season. With Chris Chester being a 33 year old free agent, it seems more likely that Levitre will be back at least for one more year. Hopefully, a year to adjust - along with a hopeful improvement in who plays center - will make a difference in Levitre's play in 2016. He showed flashes of being able to play well, but the inconsistency and penalties have to get better. Regardless, the Falcons should start the process of finding his long-term replacement now. The likelihood of him being back in 2017 seems very small.
Your thoughts on Levitre?