The Falcons have missed the boat…
…In regards to improving the offensive line. Granted, there is still plenty of time for moves to be made, but the crop of available offensive linemen is comparatively slim to what it was a week ago. Right now, the only free agents that might be worth the Falcons efforts are guards Larry Allen or Chris Naeole. And Allen is contemplating retirement, and Naeole is coming off a severe enough quad injury that it prompted the Jaguars to release him.
I know many think the Falcons can and will draft Jake Long in the first round of this April’s draft. First off, I disagree because I fairly certain (as certain as you can be about the draft in mid-March) that Long will be either the #1 or #2 pick in the draft. And secondly, despite my affinity for Long, I don’t think he’s another Joe Thomas waiting to happen which is what many are comparing him to. If you ask me, it’s no mere coincidence that the Browns added left guard Eric Steinbach, one of the league’s premier guards before picking up Thomas, which I’m sure made his transition to the pros a heckuva lot easier. Unless the Falcons can pick up a player the caliber of Steinbach (Allen might qualify) to play left guard, I don’t think Justin Blalock is going to be up to that task.
Of course there will be talent available in Round 2 as well, with the Falcons having two picks in that round. But methinks there will be at least four offensive tackles taken in Round 1, if not more. And there’s probably only five or six tackles in this entire class that are ready to come in and play left tackle immediately, which doesn’t leave much for chance.
No, the Falcons screwed the pooch as far as the left tackle position goes. Maybe the team goes out and makes a large offer to Max Starks. But Starks has struggled often in pass protection in his short NFL career, not exactly the description you want to hear about your next left tackle. Maybe the team picks up Tom Ashworth, who played some spot duty at left tackle in New England and Seattle in recent years. Maybe the team picks up Barry Sims, who has started most of the last 9 years in Oakland at left tackle. But that’s the same Barry Sims that gave up 9.5 sacks and was penalized 14 times last year, and has steadily been on the decline for the past 4-5 years. Comparatively, Wayne Gandy gave up 9 sacks and was penalized 7 times in 2006. So if you thought Gandy was bad, then Sims is certainly going to be a lot worse.
At this point, the Falcons best option may be swinging a trade for Jonas Jennings, and then perhaps signing his former linemate in Allen to help solidify the Falcons left side for the next year or two, at least until Blalock and/or our newest rookie have a bit more seasoning under their belts.
Otherwise, I foresee Redman being on his backside quite a bit this year, and the Michael Turner era getting off to a very slow start.