Atlanta Falcons training camp is officially here, as all players must report to Flowery Branch today and practice begins in earnest on Wednesday. It’s an exciting time for both the players and the fans, as we’ll get our first extended look at the roster heading in to the 2022 NFL season. We’ve seen a number of intriguing additions in the draft and in free agency, leading to what might be the biggest overhaul in nearly a decade for the Falcons.
Atlanta enters training camp with one open spot on the roster after the surprising retirement of Eddie Goldman. While the team may have signaled interest in signing a corner, we’re going to throw out our personal preferences for the free agent we’d like to see the Falcons sign as training camp kicks off. Check out our picks below, and add your thoughts in the comments!
G Ereck Flowers
The Falcons seem determined to give their young players on the offensive line every opportunity to show improvement and take the starting jobs at left guard and center during training camp. I’m actually feeling fairly confident in one of Matt Hennessy or Drew Dalman giving this team league-average center play, and hopefully a little more. Left guard, on the other hand, makes me extremely nervous. If Jalen Mayfield struggles in the preseason, the only other options are veteran Elijah Wilkinson (possibly OK, but better at tackle), Colby Gossett (who couldn’t beat out Mayfield last season), sixth-round rookie Justin Shaffer, and UDFA Ryan Neuzil.
To say I’m skeptical that any of those players can provide a meaningful improvement over Mayfield would be an understatement. That’s why I’d love to see the Falcons bring in an established, above-average starter to significantly improve the stability and overall play of the offensive line. Dave and I both like Quinton Spain—who Dave touches on below and would be a cheaper one-year option—but I’ll throw in another name: Ereck Flowers. After a rough start to his career at tackle, Flowers transitioned to guard and has looked a lot more comfortable. He’s been an above-average to good pass protector over the past three seasons, and had his best year yet in 2021 with a 72.0 overall PFF grade. —Kevin Knight
EDGE Trey Flowers
The Falcons have multiple stats where the team is among the very last in the league. Sadly, there’s no way to fix everything in one offseason, let alone via one free agent who is still available on the cusp of August. Flowers is an interesting one as the previously key free agent that would help Matt Patricia turn the Detroit Lions into the New England Patriots. As you may have put together from that last sentence, things went horribly wrong. Flowers has been stricken by the injury bug the last two seasons, but averaged 7 sacks per season the four seasons prior. Turning 29 ahead of the season, Flowers fits a position of need with some serious upside for 2022 and beyond. — Matt Chambers
G Quinton Spain
The ideal scenario for the Falcons remains Jalen Mayfield turning his calamitous rookie campaign into greatness, providing an inspiring turnaround and locking down the left guard position for at least the next three seasons. After watching Mayfield play his rookie season, obviously, even the most optimistic among us have to admit that feels like a long road.
If the Falcons don’t feel Mayfield is ready to take that kind of leap—and hell, even if he does and Quinton Spain is just hanging around in free agency somehow a couple of weeks from now—they should sign Spain. Still an extremely capable starter who played for the Titans when Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator, Spain is a rare mix of a good player with ties to the staff who also plays at a position of undeniable need. I’d love to see him join the Falcons. —Dave Choate
G Nick Easton
Thus far, we haven’t see enough positives from Jalen Mayfield to just give him the starting left guard position, without any sort of resistance, going into the 2022 season. The Michigan alum gave up the most sacks among all offensive linemen last season, and he graded out as PFF’s worst pass blocking guard among players who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. Thus far, the team has brought in no legitimate competition at left guard, unless you consider sixth round rookie Justin Shaffer a true contender to start.
Enter Nick Easton. The former starting left guard of the Vikings and then Saints missed all of 2021 due to an injury, and is still available on the market today. If he returns a clean bill of health, Easton can be a cheap veteran option at left guard, whom you can rely on to at least give you close to average play, which is a massive step up from what we saw from Mayfield in 2021. If Mayfield can beat Easton out in camp, I’d feel a lot better about him taking that second-year leap. I’m really not asking for much here. - Adnan Ikic