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Falcons add starting guard option Brandon Fusco as free agency kicks off

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has extensive starting experience and figures to push for right guard duties.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have signed longtime guard and center Brandon Fusco, adding a steady veteran who may very well be the team’s starter at right guard when the season opens. The signing is classically out of left field, as we hadn’t heard the Falcons linked to the former 49er and Viking at all, but it makes sense if you view right guard as trouble spot for the line. I don’t have to tell you that many fans—and evidently the team itself—do.

Fusco, 29, has started 80 of 83 career games since coming into the league as a 2011 sixth round selection of the Minnesota Vikings. He spent most of his career in Minnesota, where he primarily started at right guard, before joining the 49ers last year and starting all 16 games at the position. Pro Football Focus had him as an average starting right guard, and critically he graded out better than Atlanta’s own Wes Schweitzer at the position. He’s a strong fit for the blocking scheme the Falcons employ, as is evinced by the fact that he just started 16 games for a Kyle Shanahan offense.

At worst, Fusco will push for starting duties and serve as experienced depth if he doesn’t win the job outright. The Falcons suddenly have quite a few contenders for roster spots at the guard position, even if Ben Garland primarily serves as a backup to Alex Mack, and there’s a chance they may attempt to move (or even cut ties with) one of Garland, Sean Harlow, and Schweitzer before the season starts.

I’m honestly a little baffled by the attention paid to guard, especially before the draft, but the Falcons obviously aren’t satisfied with Schweitzer being the unquestioned starter at right guard after he had some long stints on the struggle bus in 2017. He and Sean Harlow may be in play at left guard a year from now if the Falcons part ways with Andy Levitre, but given the team’s focus on the trenches, they may not be done adding players just yet. It’s clear the team intends to attack their perceived weakness at guard with competition, and to ensure they have quality backups on hand if Levitre struggles or gets injured in 2018.

We’re a long way off from this situation settling itself, however, so for now we’ll welcome Fusco to Atlanta. I’d go ahead and pencil him into the starting lineup.