Falcons Needs: Interior Offensive Line
The interior of the Falcons offensive line could definitely use an upgrade, but it’s possible that the Falcons may opt not to invest significantly at this position.
Center Todd McClure and guard Garrett Reynolds are the team’s lone free agents at the position. While McClure seems set to try and play one more year in the NFL, it remains to be seen if that place is Atlanta. The Falcons have invested draft picks in both Joe Hawley and Peter Konz for a reason, with the intent of succeeding McClure. Given that 2013 will be the final year of Hawley’s contract, it seems that now is the time to determine whether or not he is going to stick long-term in Atlanta.
Because the team may want to give Hawley an opportunity to start at center and earn a long-term contract a year from now, it may mean that Peter Konz will return to start at right guard next year. The Falcons will have to determine whether they consider Konz a better candidate at that position versus a free agent or draft pick. Konz struggled throughout much of the 2012 season but played relatively well in the playoffs, potentially giving the team some hope that he could make significant improvement next year. If that proves to be the case, then the Falcons will likely only be looking for a backup to bolster depth and to compete in camp as opposed to a starter that will supplant Konz.
But if the Falcons do decide to sign/draft someone to be the starter, it will then likely move Konz to center so that he and Hawley compete for that vacant position.
The Falcons will need to decide what to do with Garrett Reynolds. While Reynolds was a serviceable starter this year before he was injured, he has not played well enough to stick in the starting lineup, and thus will likely be viewed as a backup going forward. If he’s willing to stay in Atlanta for the modest price of a reserve then he should be back. If not, then it will mean the team will probably add a veteran or draft pick to replace him. While youngsters like Phillipkeith Manley, Jacques McClendon, and Harland Gunn will be expected to compete for reserve roles next year, it would be a tall order to ask any of them to be a play away from being the Falcons starter at right guard, especially considering how much turnover has been there recently. Only once in the last four years did the opening day starter at right guard end the year in that same position. It’s possible the Falcons could move Mike Johnson back to guard, but that may be dependent on what moves if any the Falcons make at the tackle position. If Sam Baker is re-signed, it increases the chances that Johnson could be competing for a starting guard spot next year. If not, then the Falcons may need him more as a depth option at tackle than they do at guard.
Justin Blalock is coming off a subpar season at left guard, but due to the big contract the team gave him in 2011, he’s not going anywhere.