UPDATE: Well, that was short-lived. The Falcons released Gono ahead of free agency, so it looks like he won’t be returning to Atlanta. Original story below.
Expected to be in the competition for a starting role on the offensive line in 2021, Matt Gono underwent surgery prior to training camp and seemed at the very least likely to be relegated to a reserve role again after missing camp.
Well, even that didn’t come to fruition. Gono went on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of camp, and that is where he remained for the entirety of the season. So, let’s take a look at his 2020 numbers and then discus how the team could proceed.
- 15 games (4 starts)
- 1 sack allowed
- 16 pressures allowed
- No penalties
- 58.7 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade
- 46.6 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade
*Missed entire 2021 season
The case for signing Gono
In yet another cash-strapped offseason, albeit a little less cash-strapped, many believe the Falcons should address their offensive line in some way. While it’s hard to believe they won’t make some kind of effort to bolster the line, perhaps they already have a solid in-house option. Now, this all assumes Gono can recover from what cost him the 2021 season, but there’s a reason the Falcons have been grooming him.
During his brief starting stings in 2020, Gono gave fans reason to believe he could win a starting job coming out of camp. I remember when the Falcons landed Gono as an undrafted free agent and surprisingly had him on their active roster throughout the year. Why? Well, they didn’t want to risk anyone else snapping him up. Gono will turn just 26 this spring, which is right in the sweet spot for an offensive lineman to really find his stride. On top of that, he will likely be very inexpensive due to his lack of playing time and the injury.
If the Falcons want to run it back and give Gono another look in camp, there probably isn’t too much downside to that idea.
The case against signing Gono
For starters, he just missed the entire season with an injury we know very little about. Now, the team obviously knows all of the details, but if that injury is reason enough for you to feel skittish about the idea I’m not going to judge you. On top of that, he hasn’t shown any sustained excellence in the lineup. The promise is there, sure, but that’s all it is until it manifests. Teams don’t go very far with promising players who never produce to that level.
If the Falcons are truly serious about getting better in the trenches, and all signs indicate they are, then they should go after an established NFL player or invest draft capital in someone who is likely much younger and possesses similar upside. This was a diamond-in-the-rough find for Thomas Dimitroff, but owing to injury and opportunity, it may just prove to be some pretty-looking quartz.
The verdict: Re-sign Matt Gono
Again, I’m operating under the assumption that Gono is progressing in his recovery as expected, but it would make sense to bring him back on another one- or two-year deal on the cheap. This organization felt good enough about his prospects to place a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent last offseason.
Given some of the problems we saw on the offensive line this year, the Falcons need all the options they can get. At 26, Gono is still intriguing on the right contract.