Earlier this offseason, I argued the Falcons could get by with the current level of competition at left guard, which at the time consisted of Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, Matt Gono and I guess Sean Harlow. My thinking was that the Falcons didn’t need dominance at all five spots on the offensive line, not with their other major needs, and that whoever won that gig could be at least an average option on a line that should be pretty good otherwise.
The Falcons made it clear standing pat wasn’t an option when they signed Justin McCray to add to the competition, and they made it even more clear when they drafted future center Matt Hennessy and declared he’d compete for the left guard spot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but despite Hennessy’s evident promise, it’s not immediately apparent he’ll be a huge upgrade at guard, and there’s always the possibility that cross-training him doesn’t help him get ready to naild own the center job in 2021 when Alex Mack’s contract is up.
Chances are good the Falcons will trot out at least one guard spot that’s a little shaky in 2020, in other words. That’s plenty survivable with the talent on hand, but if Dirk Koetter is serious about running more and more effectively and this team wants to have a truly elite offense, there is a far-fetched option available to them.
I’m referring to signing Larry Warford. He’s a phenomenal player who hasn’t really fallen off over the last three seasons, given that he went to the Pro Bowl in each one and graded out well at right guard, and appears to have been released because the Saints are arrogant enough to think they can effectively replace him with a rookie and because they did save a lot of money doing so. He’s going to hit the open market with plenty of suitors, and the Falcons won’t have the money to get him until June, if even then.
If he lingers on the market, though, you don’t have to do much work to talk me into the signing. I’m a strong believer that Chris Lindstrom would be not just a capable but potentially great starting left guard, while Warford would be an upgrade at right guard even over Lindstrom. It’s the kind of signing that would make this line one of the better ones in the NFL, and it would give this team absurd depth with Hennessy behind Mack, two of Brown/McCray/Carpenter at guard, and likely Gono as the swing tackle. Getting Warford on a multi-year deal that limited his cap hit in year one would be the kind of move that would put this offense over the top, with Koetter’s mediocre track record the only obstacle to greatness left on that side of the ball.
It would be fair to say this isn’t likely, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Warford’s market just in case the Falcons do get a crack at him. In what’s supposed to be a make-or-break year for Atlanta, Warford could help them make it.