The Atlanta Falcons were one of the more disappointing teams in the NFL this season. After being an up-and-coming squad for the last few years, they found themselves watching the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They have plenty of areas that need to be addressed this offseason if they want to turn their fortunes around, but none more pressing than the offensive line.
The Falcons already have a franchise quarterback and one of the best deep-ball receivers in the league, but it means nothing if the offensive line can’t give Matt Ryan enough protection to get the ball to Julio Jones. Don’t even get me started on how pointless upgrading the running game would be if the Falcons don’t get better up front.
The Atlanta offensive line was a disappointment all season long, and they need to find upgrades right away. The first place they should look is the draft. With the sixth overall pick, they should be in good shape to get their hands on Jake Matthews, the bruising tackle who has spent the last two years making Johnny Manziel look better than he really is. If they don’t get Matthews in the first round, they could look at Alabama prospect Cyrus Kouandjio in the second.
With so many needs up front, it’s unlikely the Falcons will be able to address them all in the draft. If they have to rely on free agency, a much more expensive and less attractive option, they might still have a few reasonable options available to them. Branden Albert, the odd man out in Kansas City, will be highly sought after, but if they can get him for the right price he would be a much needed upgrade at left tackle. They should also target center Alex Mack if Cleveland is crazy enough to let him hit the open market.
The Falcons have plenty of needs to fill this offseason, but if they don’t fix the offensive line none of the other moves they make would matter. General manager Thomas Dimitroff is one of the smartest team-builders around, I have no doubt he will be aggressive in upgrading the offensive line this offseason.