Mike Person was a fine blocking center in 2015, the kind of guy you'll happily tolerate as a stopgap at the pivot for a season or two. Unfortunately for him and the Falcons, his snapping was a complete fiasco, and it arguably cost Atlanta a couple of games.
Person might improve his snapping significantly with another offseason under his belt, but I doubt the Falcons will take that chance. Person is much more likely to enter the season as a starting guard or versatile backup, where he has real value, with the Falcons electing to start a player who has significant experience at the position. The question is, who will that be?
As I see it, here's your options:
- Starting Gino Gradkowski or James Stone. Gradkowski seems likely to return. He has a shaky track record as a starting center, but seemed to make a positive impression on the coaching staff late in the season and should come pretty cheap. Stone is an in-house option, though he hasn't done much to inspire confidence in his abilities for the new coaching staff. If the Falcons go with either of these guys, they've probably significantly upgraded at guard, because they'd need to in order to hand the keys over to uninspiring options like these.
- A free agent. Alex Mack would be the crown jewel here if he makes it to free agency, and the Falcons certainly have enough money to pursue him, even if I think it's unlikely. Stefen Wisniewski of the Jaguars, big Ben Jones from Houston, and St. Louis's Tim Barnes loom as options if the Falcons can't get Mack and still want to dig into free agency, but beyond Mack, there isn't a truly great center out there. You'd be shopping for an upgrade, in other words, but not necessarily a long-term solution.
- A draft pick. This would be a long-term solution that may not translate into much of a 2016 upgrade. Ryan Kelly from Alabama and Nick Martin from Notre Dame are easily the best two options in the class, but I'd expect both to command a second or third round pick, meaning you have to make a significant investment in a year where Quinn and company will surely be keen on pouring a lot of resources into defense. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I'm skeptical the Falcons will do so.
Jack Allen in the 3rd or 4th might be a realistic option, or Atlanta could take a developmental prospect in the 6th or 7th. If that's the case, it's safe to assume they'll turn to an in-house or free agent option while that guy marinates.
This isn't the best year to be looking for a center, unless Mack does hit the market and the Falcons are feeling good about funneling a large contract his way. However, the chances of Atlanta finding a center who can block about as well as Person and snap better is, cheerfully, pretty high. I'm hopeful they'll elect to prioritize getting a young player who can be a fixture for years to come, and Allen is my hunch.