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What should the Falcons do with James Carpenter?

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A disappointing 2019 season raises serious questions for 2020.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons realized after the 2018 season that they needed to do something to fix the offensive line. The unit allowed Ryan to be hit/sacked at a rate that rivaled the abominable 2013 and 2014 seasons. The team signed free agent guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter and then spent their first round picks on Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.

After a bunch of injuries and disappointing play, the 2019 offensive line actually managed to get worse, with Matt Ryan being sacked a career high 48 times. Going into 2020, it’s clear this has to change. Is former first round pick James Carpenter still a potential solution at one of the guard spots? Let’s take a look.

His value

Turning 31 in March, Carpenter has been in the league for a while. Having played four years in Seattle and four more with the Jets before landing here last year, Carpenter has generally been a capable pass blocker and good enough in the run game. In fact, his PFF scores show that he registered a 70 or higher pass blocking grade 4 times in the past 6 seasons. His worst season, though, was this past one in Atlanta.

Granted, Carpenter only played in 11 games for the Falcons due to a rash of injuries he suffered during the season, including a concussion which kept him out for a few games. That said, his performance at the beginning of the year was not good either.

The money and what to do

Unfortunately, the Falcons locked themselves in to keeping Carpenter through 2020. His four year contract is worth 21 million overall and his cap hit in 2020 is going to be a little over 5 million. Cutting him will save under 100k in cap space while incurring a 5.125M dead money hit.

As for what to do, the team clearly has Chris Lindstrom locked in at the right guard spot for the future. Left guard is a huge question mark and Carpenter will probably be a part of the competition for the spot in 2020, whether we like it or not. He will probably compete with Jamon Brown to see if either guy can win it outright.

That said, don’t be surprised if the Falcons draft another interior offensive lineman this year. It may not be the first round pick, but an early day 2 pick isn’t out of the question. With Matt Ryan turning 35 this year, the team knows they can’t keep subjecting him to punishment behind this line. Carpenter is definitely not the long-term answer at left guard, but he could end up being their only option in 2020.

What are your thoughts on James Carpenter and his future with the team?