The Atlanta Falcons joined the free agency festivities with a pair of signings on the offensive line. Let’s break them down.
Under the tutelage of head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the Atlanta Falcons were never a team that was enamored with winning free agency or being one of the more talked about teams during free agency. The acquisitions of players such as Mohamed Sanu and Alex Mack were very solid and paid dividends in terms of the team’s success since 2016. During this offseason, in the midst of a fairly shallow salary cap, the Falcons chose to fix an obvious need on the offensive line by signing two veteran blockers that will alter the Falcons approach on offense. Time to break down the soon-to-be newly signed Falcons, James Carpenter and Jamon Brown.
The former Seattle Seahawk and New York Jet was a first round pick of the Seahawks in the 2011 NFL Draft at 25th overall. At the time, Carpenter was definitely a surprise selection by Seattle after Carpenter spent his time at the University of Alabama. Four seasons in Seattle and four more with the Jets from 2015-2018 did not quite produce expectations being met from a former first-rounder, but it did establish an interior offensive lineman that is physical and packs a punch at 6’5 and roughly 320 pounds.
During his career, Carpenter saw time at both right and left guard as well as right tackle. This past season, Carpenter saw only 624 snaps due to being placed on injured reserve in late November because of a shoulder injury. While physical and bearing solid NFL size that suggests run blocking acumen, Carpenter earned a 71.9 grade in pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus.
As a matter of fact, Carpenter has fared much better in the pass blocking aspect over the course of his career. Of note, Carpenter only committed three penalties this past season and 39 total over his entire career.
Carpenter’s best fit is at the left guard spot due to his size and blocking prowess but lack of favorable footwork. At this stage of his career, further development is not likely to happen although he is in a completely different scheme. Where he showed an inability to adjust is his ineffectiveness to react properly to stunts and delayed blitzes.
Thhey are not common mistakes that he will encounter fairly often. Questions still need to be answered as far as Carpenter applying that physicality of his to elevate the Falcons run game, something Dan Quinn indicated was a priority.
Focusing on the offensive line on this day, the more interesting signing for the Falcons was the acquisition of Brown. The veteran is only 25 years of age, which presents a possible long term avenue for the Falcons. Brown has plenty of girth as a 340-pounder but he also has enough athleticism to interest a coaching staff.
A 3rd round selection out of Louisville in 2015, Brown has spent his career with the Rams and the Giants. Brown was spread across the offensive line but spent the majority of his time at right guard. His best two seasons of his career came in 2016 and 2017 with the Rams under head coach Sean McVay.
Brown was a former defensive tackle during his collegiate career so you could fairly say that he is still developing a feel for the position. For three of his four seasons in the NFL, Brown graded better as a run blocker than in pass protection and this past season, Brown was a positive on a Giants offensive line that had several moments of inconsistency. Many assume that Brown will likely be just an above average piece for his career despite him having raw tools.
Brown was relied on heavily on the right side last season for the Giants and they saw an improvement in points per game and rushing yards per game once he was inserted into the starting lineup. Brown’s physicality is easy to spot on film and his skill set showcases a blocker that is a true asset in the run game.
The factor in the signings of both Carpenter and Brown is the contractual deal that is given to both. In the case of Carpenter, the veteran is being given a four-year deal and $21 million while Brown receives a three-year contract worth $18.75 million with $12.75 million guaranteed. That means at the very least that the team is looking to have both as starters for the present and the future.
There probably is not any considerable upside with either one, but what is being added to the Falcons offensive line is a dose of physicality and grittiness on a unit that was without it for the past few seasons. Quinn did state during the offseason that he envisioned a more nastier team that is able to punch opponents in the mouth, figuratively of course.
The expectation for both is that winning out a camp battle and starting at left and right guard would be best case scenario. Their presence mitigates an outside zone blocking aspect in the run game but still expect the Falcons to establish the run game a little more than normal, hopefully for the better. It also indicates that the team felt more comfortable with veterans to help protect quarterback Matt Ryan than rely on rookies.
Could they still draft a prospect with long-term potential? Yes, but i’m not certain an early round prospect is needed. For those who wanted to see the Falcons get a little bigger and tougher on the offensive line, the call was answered with these new Falcons.