It’s funny that the one position on the Atlanta Falcons’ roster with the most roster stability is also the one with perhaps the most desperate need for change. The offensive line returns all five starters for the 2022 season: Jake Matthews at left tackle, Jalen Mayfield at left guard, Matt Hennessy at center, Chris Lindstrom at right guard, and Kaleb McGary at right tackle. Two out of the five are rock solid, above-average-or-better starters in Matthews and Lindstrom. The other three are big question marks.
Jalen Mayfield was, by some measurements, the worst guard in the NFL in 2021. The Falcons threw the converted left tackle to the wolves early and, to their credit or perhaps insanity, kept him in the lineup over the course of the year. His run blocking improved, but the pass blocking was a huge issue. Matt Hennessy had a solid year overall, but his pass protection was also a problem. Kaleb McGary continued doing what he does best: looking good some weeks, and like a liability in others.
It doesn’t appear that Atlanta will pick up McGary’s fifth-year option, which means McGary will be a free agent in 2023. While the other players could theoretically all be long-term starters, Atlanta could stand to upgrade at both left guard and center. Luckily, this is a very deep offensive line group in free agency, and the Falcons have options at all skill levels and price points. Here’s a list of most of the potential additions, along with my personal favorite choices.
- OT Terron Armstead | Saints | 31 | 75.9 overall PFF grade
- OT Trent Brown | Patriots | 29 | 77.6 overall PFF grade
- OT David Quessenberry (RFA) | Titans | 32 | 80.6 overall PFF grade
- OT Orlando Brown Jr. | Chiefs | 26 | 75.2 overall PFF grade
- OT Cornelius Lucas | Commanders | 31 | 75.2 overall PFF grade
This is a deep offensive line group in free agency, and tackle is no exception. Many of these players had surprisingly good seasons when filling in for injured starters and proved themselves as very good starters themselves. Trent Brown is a massive road-grader at tackle that flamed out with the Raiders before making a triumphant return to New England. He’s a high-end right tackle and would be a big upgrade over McGary, but would also be expensive. If the Titans’ David Quessenberry somehow avoids an RFA tender, the Falcons should look into adding him. He’s got plenty of experience in Smith’s offense.
- G Brandon Scherff | Commanders | 31 | 73.6 overall PFF grade
- G Alex Cappa | Bucs | 27 | 74.2 overall PFF grade
- G James Daniels | Bears | 25 | 71.0 overall PFF grade
- G Laken Tomlinson | 49ers | 30 | 75.9 overall PFF grade
- G Quinton Spain | Bengals | 31 | 72.3 overall PFF grade
- G Connor Williams | Cowboys | 25 | 76.1 overall PFF grade
The guard class is just as good at the top as the tackle class—maybe even better. Any one of these players would provide a massive upgrade over Jalen Mayfield, but this tier of players will be costly. My personal favorite is James Daniels of the Bears, who can play guard and center at a high level and has a connection with offensive coordinator Dave Ragone. Another good option could be Quinton Spain of the Bengals, who continued to look like an above-average starter on a bad overall offensive line and won’t be nearly as expensive as the other names on this list.
- C Ben Jones | Titans | 33 | 77.8 overall PFF grade
- C Ryan Jensen | Bucs | 31 | 70.3 overall PFF grade
- C Bradley Bozeman | Ravens | 27 | 73.3 overall PFF grade
- C Brian Allen | Rams | 27 | 80.2 overall PFF grade
There are fewer options at center, but one name in particular stands out: veteran Ben Jones of the Titans. If the Falcons are looking to make an Alex Mack-like move for an established leader at the pivot, Jones makes a ton of sense. Much like Mack, he’s nearing the end of his career, but that could be enough time to groom one of Matt Hennessy or Drew Dalman to take over the job permanently.
Stopgap starters/high-level reserves
- OT Morgan Moses | Jets | 31 | 71.0 overall PFF grade
- OT Bobby Massie | Broncos | 33 | 70.0 overall PFF grade
- OT Eric Fisher | Colts | 31 | 68.2 overall PFF grade
- OT Joseph Noteboom | Rams | 27 | 76.0 overall PFF grade
- OT Cam Robinson | Jaguars | 27 | 67.4 overall PFF grade
- OT Riley Reiff | Bengals | 34 | 67.3 overall PFF grade
- OT Brandon Shell | Seahawks | 30 | 67.0 overall PFF grade
- OT Mike Remmers | Chiefs | 33 | 64.5 overall PFF grade
- OT Chukwuma Okorafor | Steelers | 25 | 63.6 overall PFF grade
- OT Cameron Fleming | Broncos | 30 | 71.7 overall PFF grade
If the Falcons are looking to bring in competition for McGary without breaking the bank, there are a ton of options on the open market. One of my favorites is Rams’ swing tackle Joseph Noteboom, who finally got a chance to start due to injury and has been very good. He’s also just 27, and could have bright future ahead. A more established veteran option is Jets’ swing tackle Morgan Moses, who actually provided an upgrade over the player he replaced in the lineup in New York. He’s 31 and not a high-end starter, but is reliable and would be a very good swing tackle too.
- G Mark Glowinski | Colts | 30 | 70.1 overall PFF grade
- G Ted Karras | Patriots | 29 | 72.8 overall PFF grade
- G Trai Turner | Steelers | 29 | 69.4 overall PFF grade
- G Tom Compton | 49ers | 33 | 86.5 overall PFF grade
- G Andrew Norwell | Jaguars | 31 | 66.7 overall PFF grade
- G Austin Corbett | Rams | 27 | 68.8 overall PFF grade
- G Michael Schofield | Chargers | 32 | 66.8 overall PFF grade
- G Chris Reed | Colts | 30 | 67.2 overall PFF grade
- G Andrew Wylie | Chiefs | 28 | 67.2 overall PFF grade
There are a lot of intriguing veteran guards to consider on the market, and some could be good buy-low candidates. Falcons fans likely remember Andrew Norwell, who was a potential left guard target for Atlanta years ago. He never really lived up to his price tag in Jacksonville, but I’m not sure the Jaguars aren’t to blame for that. Mark Glowinski of the Colts is a good average to above-average starter who shouldn’t be overly expensive and would provide stability to the position. Trai Turner was a player I wanted last offseason who ended up starting for the Steelers and looked pretty good, especially as a run blocker.
- C Mason Cole | Vikings | 26 | 69.7 overall PFF grade
- C Matt Paradis | Panthers | 33 | 66.9 overall PFF grade
- C Ethan Pocic | Seahawks | 27 | 67.3 overall PFF grade
- C Billy Price | Giants | 28 | 62.3 overall PFF grade
- C Justin Britt | Texans | 31 | 63.9 overall PFF grade
There are also a number of solid starters at center who are available this offseason—though I’m not sure the Falcons would bother with this group considering they wouldn’t really be upgrades over Matt Hennessy. One name who stands out to me is former second-round pick Ethan Pocic of the Seahawks. He took awhile to get going, but has excellent size and is coming off his best season.
- OT Germain Ifedi | Bears | 28 | 61.8 overall PFF grade
- OT Nate Solder | Giants | 34 | 60.3 overall PFF grade
- OT Brandon Parker | Raiders | 27 | 55.8 overall PFF grade
- OT Geron Christian | Texas | 26 | 59.5 overall PFF grade
- OT Jason Spriggs | Falcons | 28 | 58.9 overall PFF grade
If the Falcons are looking to bring in a swing tackle or other tackle depth on the cheap, these are the names to watch. The most likely scenario is that the team re-signs former first-rounder Jason Spriggs, who was fairly solid in limited action.
- G Daniel Brunskill (RFA) | 49ers | 28 | 61.4 overall PFF grade
- G Will Hernandez | Giants | 27 | 55.9 overall PFF grade
- G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif | 31 | 53.2 overall PFF grade
- G Ike Boettger | Bills | 28 | 59.8 overall PFF grade
- G James Carpenter | Saints | 33 | 64.5 overall PFF grade
- G Colby Gossett (ERFA) | Falcons | 27 | 65.3 overall PFF grade
This is a very interesting group, because no matter what the Falcons need to add something at guard. These guys are all likely to be very cheap, and there are a few names I’m interested in. First off, the team is almost certain to bring back ERFA Colby Gossett at the veteran minimum, as he was solid and is worth holding on to at that price. Will Hernandez of the Giants never lived up to his draft stock, but is still just 27 and tested out as an elite athlete—I wouldn’t mind bringing him in as depth and as a possible reclamation project. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returned from a year-long absence to fight COVID (he’s a doctor) and looked rusty with the Jets, but had many good years with the Chiefs and won’t be expensive.
- C Greg Mancz | Dolphins | 30 | 61.9 overall PFF grade
- C Tyler Shatley | Jaguars | 31 | 60.7 overall PFF grade
- C/G Lucas Patrick | Packers | 29 | 57.2 overall PFF grade
- C/G Josh Andrews | Falcons | 31 | No PFF grade
If the Falcons don’t go after James Daniels or Ben Jones at center and want to get a solid depth piece, my favorite name on the market is Greg Mancz. He’s always been a backup and spot starter, but he’s also always done a solid job. I think he’d be a capable reserve and a big upgrade over Josh Andrews, who didn’t even see the field for Atlanta last year and isn’t likely to be re-signed.