The last thing the Atlanta Falcons want to do is admit making another bad personnel move. They might not have a choice when dissecting the offensive line.
Remember, the Falcons traded a 2016 sixth-round draft pick and another future conditional draft pick to Tennessee to acquire veteran left guard Andy Levitre. Although Levitre agreed to a restructured contract, he was given a $5.5 million signing bonus and made $1,506,240 this past season.
Levitre still has three years left on his contract with base salaries of $4 million, $5.25 million, and $7 million. But the Falcons seem better off cutting ties with Levitre, although it would provide just $1.25 million in cap savings.
There is no doubt the Falcons need to upgrade the interior of the offensive line with bigger bodies capable of keeping Matt Ryan upright. As the tape showed, Levitre struggled in that category. Not to mention he led the team with 11 penalties for 95 yards, with another 37 yards nullified as a result of those infractions.
Again, the Falcons need to beef up the interior, and the 6-foot-2-inch, 303-pound Levitre isn't the ideal size and has shorter arms. He started the 2015 season strong, but obviously wore down and became ineffective.
It's been a rotating door at the guard spots anyhow. After Dan Quinn was hired as head coach, the Falcons parted ways with veteran left guard Justin Blalock. Next was right guard Jon Asamoah, who lost his starting job after an injury and eventually agreed to an injury settlement. Blalock and Asamoah were not viewed as ideal fits in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside zone-blocking scheme.
Mike Person and James Stone had auditions at guard before the Falcons settled on Levitre and fellow veteran Chris Chester as the starters. And Chester, who signed a one-year, basically played with one arm to end the season before having offseason shoulder surgery.
Chester realizes he was more of a stopgap player, and Levitire might well end up being the same. The Falcons already started reshaping the roster with the release of defensive starters Justin Durant and William Moore. We'll see what other moves are made before the free-agent signing period begins, March 9.
So what are the Falcons' options at guard? Some of the pending free agents who are bigger bodies include Brandon Brooks (6-5, 335) of the Texans, Bryon Bell (6-5, 339) of the Titans, Vladmir Ducasse (6-4, 332) of the Bears, Ramon Foster (6-5, 328) of the Steelers, and Kelechi Osemele (6-5, 333) of the Ravens. The versatile Osemele would be the best scheme fit, but he will command a high salary as one of the top guards on the market and a player capable of playing tackle, too.
It most likely will come down to how much the Falcons are willing to invest in the position. Levitre makes $5.8 million per season and Chester made $2.8 million last season. Asamoah, as you may recall, signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract that included $8 million guaranteed.
Of course there is always the draft, but the last interior linemen they selected was draft bust Peter Konz (second round, 2012). The Falcons believe they will do a better job dissecting draft prospects with the additions of former general managers-turned national scouts Phil Emery and Ruston Webster, although their decision-making track records would say otherwise.