With the Atlanta Falcons free agency machine humming along like a 1994 Apple Macintosh loading dial-up internet, we’ve gotten itty, bitty peeks into the team’s hopes for signings.
Outside of former Patriots and Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland and recent signing Erik Harris, former Patriots center David Andrews, a Georgia alum and pretty darn good player, had been linked as a guy the Falcons were reportedly trying to sign this week.
A report from NFL Network’s Michael Giardi suggested that the team was indeed in on Andrews, and is looking at the position as a whole, this free agency cycle.
A landing spot for David Andrews appears no more. The #Falcons have been involved with the FA and are in the market for a center. https://t.co/CsTQYtqgUV— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) March 18, 2021
Andrews ultimately wound up heading back to New England, leaving the Falcons with still only one free agent signed so far and a whole lot of mystery left out there as to where this goes.
We’ve long thought 2020 third-round pick Matt Hennessy would assume the role this fall after sitting behind Alex Mack for a season, but news of interest in a guy like Andrews, who would’ve for sure started in Atlanta if signed, does make you wonder.
What does this mean for Atlanta, though, that they’re fishing for a center this month?
It could mean that the new regime does not view Hennessy as a bona fide starter right now, and may want to bring in their own guy to anchor Arthur Smith’s new offensive line. It doesn’t mean Hennessy is on the outs, necessarily, but it shows the old guard might’ve valued more about his potential than the new one, at least right now. This does not rule out Hennessy factoring in at left guard, but if Atlanta’s exploring the market for a starter at center, you can do the math on his prospects there.
With Andrews gone, who else is out there?
Chiefs center Austin Reiter is a free agent, but he could easily land back with Kansas City. Rams offensive lineman Austin Blythe has also played center in the past and had a quality run with Los Angeles. Some other names still out there, if not nearly as enticing as Andrews, Reiter or Blythe, are Cowboys center Joe Looney and immortal former Falcon and 49er Ben Garland.
You also wonder if the Falcons would throw a draft pick Tennessee’s way and trade for Georgia alum Ben Jones, who was Smith’s center both years he was calling plays with the Titans. He’ll be a free agent in 2021 and has been rock steady blocking for Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. That’s purely speculation, but it’d certainly be possible, especially if Tennessee wants to draft their center of the future.
The team could look to the draft if they strike out in free agency with guys they like. Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey are two big names in what seems like a solid center pool next month.
The new decision-makers in Atlanta are going to do things their own way, and that might start at center. Hennessy’s value to the team is still undetermined, and while he could very well be the center in week 1 this fall, the team’s willingness to explore options at the position this week is telling. Mack’s replacement may well come from outside the organization. At least one starter on the offensive line, where left guard and center are both unsettled, seems very likely.