The trade for Andy Levitre back in 2015 was not exactly warmly welcomed. The longtime Titan had scuffled a bit during the tail end of his tenure in Tennessee, and I think many of us feared something similar would happen in Atlanta. We needn’t have worried.
While Levitre’s 2015 was a little uneven, he’s quietly been a very good starting guard each of the last two seasons, and a key part of a line that has enabled the Falcons to be one of the NFL’s better offenses each year, albeit with that huge decline in 2017. He’s a guy I’d be comfortable having at left guard for the next 2-3 years, at minimum.
What’s interesting about Levitre at the moment, though, is his contract.
Coming off a triceps injury that cost him the end of the year and more or less all of the playoffs, Levitre will be 31 years old and making $8.375 million this coming season. That’s a lot of money, even if Levitre has played well enough to deserve it, and he’s a free agent after this season. There’s also the small matter that the Falcons can clear out $7 million in cap space by releasing him, money they’d likely direct elsewhere as they look at draft-eligible guards and incumbent options Wes Schweitzer and Sean Harlow. They could use that cap space.
However, that cap space is no good if it leads to the Falcons having a crisis at guard, and it’s not all that far-fetched that they’d run into one if they moved on from Levitre. That’s why it’s reasonable to think both sides might be amenable to a re-structured deal that frees up $3-5 million this year and keeps Levitre around through at least the 2019 season. Any rookie guard is going to have a learning curve, and it’s not necessarily a best practice to roll with two young guards simultaneously, especially when Schweitzer didn’t step right in and play at an elite level.
So, will it happen? I think it will depend on Levitre’s willingness to discuss his contract, because I imagine Atlanta would love to simultaneously lessen his cap load and keep him around another year or two while they determine what they have with their other young guard options. I’d put the chances of this getting done at pretty decent, and if they can, it’s a sign they’ll be more active in free agency than originally anticipated. I’d expect the Falcons to address the guard position in the draft regardless of what they wind up doing with Levitre’s contract, however.