Last year, the Falcons didn’t sign a single soul to their quarterback depth chart until after the first night of the 2021 NFL Draft. It was just Matt Ryan until the team selected Kyle Pitts at No. 4, leaving the impression that they wanted to create uncertainty about who they were choosing and/or that they were hoping San Francisco might pass on Trey Lance at No. 3. Either way, the team held off on addressing the position until that call was made and they knew they needed someone, and they had A.J. McCarron signed the next day.
It’s not an identical situation, but I’m wondering if we might see a similar sort of waiting game play out along the offensive line. In 2021, the line was a huge trouble spot for an offense that scuffled far too often, with Jalen Mayfield, Matt Hennessy, and Kaleb McGary all struggling at times and to varying degrees. Thus far in 2022, the Falcons have re-signed reserve interior offensive lineman Colby Gossett and added versatile (but not, per his track record to this point, great) lineman Elijah Wilkinson to the mix. They’ve also worked out tackle Germain Ifedi and guard/center Nick Easton, but have yet to sign either.
That’s created at least mild anxiety among fans who justifiably do not want to see Mayfield, Hennessy and McGary enter the season as starters without more aggressive competition. Hennessy might get that competition from Drew Dalman—the Falcons clearly liked him a lot last year, and he got some run rotating in at center partway through the 2021 season—but the need to add talent is evident. It would be entirely unlike this front office not to have a fallback plan, though, and so they’re either gearing up to sign a veteran or two or they’re banking names for after the draft in case they miss out on potential starting options.
Remember last offseason, when injuries derailed contingency plans that nonetheless were very real. Matt Gono was supposed to compete with McGary or factor in at left guard, but he was injured. Josh Andrews was in line to start at left guard before he got injured, and Dalman was available to battle Hennessy. The team was ultimately backed into options they didn’t necessarily plan to have as uncontested starters, but they did not leave the spring wholly reliant on doing so.
This is the kind of article that only takes one signing to become defunct and outdated, and I won’t be particularly broken up about if it that happens. The Falcons still need to add competition, at the very least, to a line that has multiple major question marks, and the hope will be that if they wait until the draft to do so there will still be options if they don’t wind up addressing the line with any of their Day 1 or Day 2 selections. Whether it’s now or in early May—and whether you love the options they add or not—there’s no way this Falcons team is planning to let Mayfield, Hennessy and McGary lock down starting jobs before minicamp even begins.