Atlanta came into this free agency period steadfast in its belief that the roster had very few holes. They opened some up along the defensive line and at tight end, sure, but they figured to focus on the trenches in both free agency and the draft to patch up most of those issues.
Figuring out what the Falcons were doing at guard was a tough one, though. Wes Schweitzer was the more-or-less undisputed starter at right guard all last year, and the Falcons came into the offseason with Andy Levitre, Schweitzer, and 2017 fourth round pick Sean Harlow ready to go, plus a keen interest in draft selections.
I’m not here to break down the guard position by its constituent pieces—suffice to say we’ll do so later today—but it was a genuine surprise to see the Falcons tender Ben Garland at a second round level, and then sign Brandon Fusco yesterday.
On a zippy first day of free agency, where the big money signings were happening left and right, Fusco was not a needle mover. He was Atlanta’s only signing, however, and critically he’s an affordable starter who is a scheme fit for the Falcons. The team now has two quality (if 30+) starters at guard, plus a ton of depth to sort through before the season arrives. It’s clear they viewed guard as a priority, and it’s clear they have their 2018 solutions to that in place.
And that’s good! While I wasn’t expecting Fusco and I would have liked to see Wes Schweitzer get another shot at starting, the Falcons want to win right now, and Fusco will likely be the team’s best option at right guard the next couple of seasons. Considering he cost them very little in the end, and that it’s one fewer hole to deal with come April, I can’t quibble with the move all that much. Schweitzer now becomes one of the better and more experienced pieces of guard depth you’ll find around the NFL.
Now the focus has to turn to the trenches and to fullback, wide receiver, and tight end, where the Falcons still do have holes. They’ll likely plug the line, at the very least, with a couple of low-priced signings, and then they’ll let the draft and summer signings do the rest. They’re one step closer to alleviating our major concerns for 2018, and while it wasn’t anything dramatic exciting, the Fusco signing is a solid one.
Now let’s see what the second day of free agency brings.