The Atlanta Falcons went into the 2017 offseason a bit strapped for cash with the contract extensions of Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Ricardo Allen looming. They were never expected to be serious players in free agency, but Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff knew that they had to bring in an upgrade along the interior of the offensive line after the unit took a step back in 2017.
Brandon Fusco was lured over from San Francisco to serve as that upgrade. The Falcons gave Fusco a 3 year/$12.75 million contract ($5.5 million guaranteed) in hopes that he would be an enhancement over the struggling Wes Schweitzer at right guard.
There was pause when Fusco didn’t win the starting RG spot over Schweitzer until late August, but we all just brushed it off as Quinn relishing the competition of the position. Look back with hindsight being 20/20, there may been more to it than that, as Fusco did not live up to the hype in year one as a Falcon.
There’s no way to really sugarcoat this — the Slippery Rock alum was dreadful in his seven starts, before suffering a broken ankle which landed him in Injured Reserve.
Fusco earned a subpar 60.2 overall grade from PFF, ranking him as the second-worst offensive lineman on Atlanta’s roster this season (only journeyman Zane Beadles had a lower grade), and 157th among all offensive lineman in the NFL.
His 60.7 pass blocking and 60.7 run blocking grades were identically poor, and he was very much outplayed by Wes Schweitzer, who was worse at run blocking (57.2) but was a much better pass blocker (70.6).
Fusco allowed two sacks and three QB hits in just 436 snaps played. For comparison’s sake, Schweitzer allowed the same two sacks and just one QB hit in 901 snaps played, which was more than twice as many as Fusco.
Brandon Fusco goes into 2019 representing a $4.85 million cap hit. With how poorly he played in 2018, and with the potential cap savings of $3.35 million which would come with cutting him, I would guess that the Falcons cut their losses with Fusco if these were normal circumstances.
However, with the even worse play of Ryan Schraeder this season and with Andy Levitre likely not coming back following another season-ending injury and the expiration of his contract, I don’t think that the team will look to part ways with Fusco just yet. Having to replace three starting offensive lineman from the year prior, in just one offseason, is a pretty herculean task for a General Manager.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the team let Fusco go, but I wouldn’t count on it (let’s say that it would be a mild surprise). With the money he’s making, I’d expect him to be given every opportunity to win the starting right guard job once again this season.
However, another poor performance this year will almost certainly result in Fusco being shown the door, as the cap savings from cutting him in 2020 would be $4.15 million.