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How Chris Chester’s retirement impacts the Falcons’ guard situation

The Falcons now have a hole at right guard they must plug.

Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Last month, we talked about what the Falcons might do at guard with Hugh Thornton and Wes Schweitzer competing, with Ben Garland also potentially in the mix. We talked about that with the assumption that if Chris Chester was coming back at all, it would be in the summertime, when the Falcons had a chance to look at their guard situation and decide how badly they needed the gray-bearded veteran.

With Chester’s retirement, that safety net is essentially gone. The Falcons will go from a steady veteran who started 35 games over the last two seasons to an unknown future. While the team has four above average starters at their other four spots on the line, that’s still a scary thing, given how badly an actively liability can screw your pass protection and run blocking alike.

There’s no doubt that the team’s best case scenario in so many ways would be Schweitzer excelling and winning the job, which would set the Falcons up to start a sixth round, second year player who costs them virtually nothing at right guard, which would help mitigate the growing salary cap expenses elsewhere on the roster. That would also mean they wouldn’t have to spend an early round pick at the position, enabling them to focus on getting the pass rusher, defensive tackle, and linebacker help that they need to take this defense to the next level.

The problem is that they can’t see how Schweitzer fares this summer before making a draft decision. Don’t be stunned if the Falcons make guard a first or second round priority, then, and if the second year pro wins the job outright and makes Thornton expendable, that rookie could be Andy Levitre’s future replacement at left guard. Either way, the Falcons urgently need to find a quality starter at right guard in the here and now.