5 Best Options for the Atlanta Falcons to Bolster Offensive Line This Offseason
Atlanta's worst position group is easily its offensive line. While the pass rush is missing a premier rusher to make it effective, the offensive line is missing at least two, if not three pieces before it can be considered competent as a unit.
It's sad that after seeing a great offensive line in 2010 Atlanta fans are hoping for average in 2014. But that's part of today's NFL. The salary cap makes it tough to have an extremely strong team in every single aspect.
However, now the Falcons have a combination of a high draft pick and quite a bit of cap room that they either have or can create for their linemen. Because of that, they should look into the following options to truly boost the worst unit on the team into one of the best.
OT Anthony Collins, Cincinnati Bengals, 6'5", 315 Pounds
Atlanta needs someone to compete at left and right tackle. And when it comes to the best option on the free-agent market, Anthony Collins from Cincinnati is by far the best option available who could be lured away from another team with the promise of starting.
If the Falcons can bring in the talented tackle from the Bengals, they would go a long way to improving their depth but could finally have a legitimate top talent that can play left tackle for the first time since Bob Whitfield left after the 2003 season.
The only drawback to Collins is that he has never been a full-time starter at the NFL level. But he's got the talent to start, and since his body has low mileage, he could very easily last another five to six years as a starter despite his age of 28.
OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, 6'5", 305 Pounds
If the Falcons wanted to make a drastic improvement on the offensive line, they'll have to look into drafting a top-level offensive tackle to usurp Sam Baker on the left side. If he falls to them at No. 6 overall—and that's very possible—Jake Matthews is the best pick for them to make to improve their line.
Matthews is a top-level offensive tackle who has experience on both sides of the line in college. He's also a member of football royalty, as he's the son of longtime Oilers/Titans offensive tackle Bruce Matthews and cousin to current Green Bay Packer's outside linebacker Clay Matthews III.
Considering the Falcons went with a legacy player in Desmond Trufant in the 2013 draft, it's not too far-fetched to see them valuing Matthews extremely high. If Matthews is available, Atlanta should definitely consider him for the No. 6 overall pick.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor, 6'5", 340 Pounds
While tackle is definitely a need, the Falcons also need to get their act together between the tackles. The best choice for the Falcons to make on the interior would be Cyril Richardson. He's played both tackle and guard for Baylor and has shown that he can play on either side of the center.
His powerful style would turn the Falcons' biggest weakness on the line at right guard and turn it into the biggest strength. With Richardson and Justin Blalock helping set the depth of the pocket on the inside, the Falcons wouldn't need as much from their center. The offensive tackles would also benefit from having a talented right guard.
They wouldn't have to worry about interior pass-rushers as much as they currently do, as Richardson and Blalock should be able to neutralize the vast majority of defensive tackles in pass protection. In order to get him, the Falcons would need to spend their second-round pick. But he'd be more than worth the investment.
C Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns, 6'4", 311 Pounds
If Atlanta wanted to make the biggest jump, it would bring in an All-Pro center like Alex Mack. While Todd McClure never reached those heights with the Falcons, he did show that he should have at least gone to the Pro Bowl multiple times in his career.
Mack, on the other hand, is just on another level than McClure ever was. He's the kind of center who controls whoever is lined up in front of him to allow the guard to kick out a bit wider than normal. He also can call ideal protections for his quarterback.
That was one of the underrated aspects of how to get the Falcons offensive line to succeed. Peter Konz failed at calling proper protections early in the year. The result wasn't ideal, and the Falcons upgrading their center position is never a bad idea.
OT Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens, 6'5", 306 Pounds
The absolute best thing the Falcons could do is to sign Eugene Monroe. He's a franchise-caliber left tackle who would allow Lamar Holmes or Sam Baker to play right tackle long term. The Falcons could easily have a much better line by moving that pairing to the right side.
The issue when it comes to Monroe is the contract he would require or if the Ravens even let him leave. If they do let him test the market, top left tackles cost an average of $10 million each year. Atlanta would have to do some very interesting cap manipulation in order to get Monroe to sign and fit under the cap.
However, if Atlanta could bring him in, he would allow the draft versatility. Should the Falcons sign Monroe and then miss out on someone like Jadeveon Clowney early, they could trade down, pick up more selections and possibly even get someone to help out at right guard as well.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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