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Atlanta Falcons 2017 roster review: Guards

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Fact: Wes Schweitzer can juggle eleven grapefruits ... simultaneously

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons right guard Wes Schweitzer hasn’t achieved “fan favorite” status yet. He’s working on it, and to be frank, he’s got a long way to go. But the crisis at guard is bigger than Schweitzer. The Falcons have to start thinking about a future where Schweitzer and Sean Harlow don’t develop into capable starters. A future where Andy Levitre is sipping a mai tai on some exotic beach, far from Flowery Branch, enjoying his retirement.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Falcons guards fared this season. (Sean Harlow wasn’t active for any regular season games, so he isn’t included.)

Wes Schweitzer

Schweitzer graded out as one of the NFL’s worst guards this season. (His PFF rating of 43.7 ranked 56th among qualifying guards.) General Manager Thomas Dimitroff was happy to sing his praises before the Falcons lost in the divisional round. This tells me the front office is convinced he’s trending in the right direction. Right or wrong, they appear willing to stand by him as he continues to develop. In his defense, he had a steep learning curve to navigate and his play did seem to improve as the season progressed. Schweitzer has two years remaining on his rookie contract.

Andy Levitre

Levitre will be 32 before next season begins. He’s also recovering from a triceps injury that landed him on IR. Setting aside his health and his age, he’s still a solid option at guard. (His PFF rating of 78 ranked 17th among qualifying guards.) $8.375 million is what Levitre is owed in 2018, the last year he’s under contract. (The Falcons can save about $7 million by cutting him.) Given his ability to play solid football at replacement level, a restructuring of his contract will help him stick around.

Ben Garland

Garland is a fan favorite because he serves as the team’s renaissance man. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle at guard this season. Garland ended the season as a starter after Levitre landed on IR. Like Schweitzer, he was arguably one of the league’s worst guards this season. (His PFF rating of 44.6 ranked 50th among qualifying guards.) Garland is a free agent and given his body of work, I’m confident the Falcons will welcome him back in 2018.

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