If the Falcons want to get to the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl they must do one thing: keep Matt Ryan upright. Ryan has shown over his career that he is the face of the franchise and he has been rewarded handsomely for his efforts, however, last season it became obvious that without anyone to protect Ryan it will be impossible to win games. The play of the offensive line was atrocious last season and every member of it needs to be put on notice going into the off-season programs. The draft is a serious possibility to improve the protection of Matt Ryan but free agency also has some intriguing prospects. Here are the top 10 offensive linemen in free agency.
Monroe was traded to the Ravens in the beginning of the season and turned heads with his more than adequate job of protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. He is a top notch pass protector with great footwork and was a big improvement over Bryant McKinnie. Monroe is also young for a franchise blindside protector at 26 years old. The Ravens have expressed interest in retaining Monroe but in event that they are not I would not be shocked to see Atlanta at least have preliminary discussions with him about a contract.
Albert played on the franchise tag last year and once again proved his worth as a protector of Alex Smith and paved rushing lanes for Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs are unlikely to retain him due to the fact that they drafted their left tackle of the future last year in Eric Fisher. This should work in Albert’s favor because he is set to make a pretty penny on the open market. He is nimble on his feet and a mauler in the trenches but his age could scare NFL teams from giving him such a large contract, Albert is 29. Albert should command an expensive contract due to tackle needy teams but if his age scares off teams from offering him a large contract I could see the Falcons front office giving him a call.
Beadles has been a dependable left guard for Denver since he was drafted in 2010. This season he blocked for what could be the best offense in NFL history. He just played through his rookie contract and will be seeking a lucrative deal; the Broncos have higher priority free agents and are not expected to resign him. If Beadles hits the open market I could see the Falcons signing him due to his young age (27) and his exceptional prowess. Having Beadles could help solve Atlanta’s rushing woes as well as keep Ryan upright.
Yes Richie Incognito brings a ton of baggage with him but he is a pro bowl caliber offensive lineman. While the chances of him playing in the NFL much less for the Falcons are slim to none he would provide an elite stopgap if Atlanta picked up a guard in the draft and looked to develop him. Incognito would also ask for a cheap, incentive laden deal due to the locker room bullying scandal as well as his age (30). However, I do not see the front office dialing his number, unless it was a prank call.