Atlanta’s got a new swing tackle, thanks to a trade with Denver. As we chronicled yesterday, the Falcons gave up a draft selection to pick up Ty Sambrailo. It was a controversial move from the moment it happened—we all remember what Vic Beasley did to Sambrailo a year ago—but it was also a deeply logical move.
The Falcons have fourth round rookie Sean Harlow at guard and the loser of the Ben Garland/Wes Schweitzer battle to play guard and center, so they’re at least okay on the interior. Where they were weaker was tackle, a perennial problem that they’ve patched over with players like Tom Compton, Bryce Harris and Jeremy Trueblood for a long time.
Getting Sambrailo has the potential to change that, especially in conjunction with the Austin Pasztor signing. The Falcons have to know they’re not going to get the same kind of injury luck they had a year ago on offense, and if a lineman goes down, they finally have a collection of under-30 linemen with some upside to step in. That’s nothing to sneeze.
So how does Sambrailo fit? That’s pretty simple, actually.
He is unequivocally going to be the swing tackle. At just 25 years old and coming off a season where he started several games--albeit not well—Sambrailo would already be as strong a candidate as Pasztor, a 16 game starter who also scuffled on the Browns offensive line.
The Falcons paid up for Sambrailo because he’s played well this preseason, lost weight and gained muscle, and seems to be fully healthy after battling injury issues his first two seasons in the NFL. None of that means he’ll be a better player, but it increases the chances he will be, and it’s worth noting that he’s under contract at a very reasonable price through the 2018 season.
If he’s even passable, the Falcons picked up a solid swing tackle for two seasons at a combined price point of under $2 million. You can understand why they took the gamble. Now we just have to hope he doesn’t have to play much, because of the implications of that for Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews.
How It Impacts The Roster
The Sambrailo signing put the final nail in the coffin of players like D.J. Tialavea and Andreas Knappe. The team cut both on Thursday, and while one or both could mosey onto the practice squad, neither one stands a realistic chance of making this roster before 2018 unless injury becomes a major issue. The team just didn’t feel good about its tackle situation, and Daniel Brunskill is exceedingly likely to join Tialavea and Knappe on the street today.
With the swing tackle situation seemingly settled, the Falcons can give Pasztor time to heal up and use him as a reserve tackle and guard, or they could have Sambrailo back up Matthews and Pasztor back up Schraeder, given that the former has more experience on the left side and the latter on the right. It seems like a virtual lock the Falcons will keep four reserve offensive linemen now, unless they’re going to try the rare and probably doomed move of sneaking Sean Harlow through waivers and onto the practice squad.
The upshot here is that the Falcons appear to have chosen to prioritize line depth, knowing full well that it only takes a major injury or two to derail a championship-caliber offense. We don’t yet know how good any of these reserves are—and I hope we don’t have to find out—but there’s a better than slim chance that Sambrailo will need to play, and that he’ll be much better when he has to than the other options the team had at hand.