With Sam Baker being ruled out for the season with a ruptured right patella tendon, it leaves the Falcons thin at offensive tackle and some cries for a trade. Jake Matthews will slide over to take his spot, and Lamar Holmes, Gabe Carimi and Ryan Schraeder will compete for right tackle. Neither of the three have an appealing résumé in the NFL.
Thomas Dimitroff admitted he mis-evaluated the readiness of the offensive line last year so I have no doubt he will be more proactive if he feels the group isn’t up to an acceptable standard. Last year’s tragedy can’t be repeated again. Potential trade targets should extend past the offensive line and into the offensive skill positions.
Me personally, I don’t feel at ease with whoever ends up winning the RT spot. A player I think we should look into is Marcus Cannon of the Patriots. Drafted in 2011, he’s been stuck behind the excellent Sebastian Vollmer but has developed into a swing tackle that has seen playing time on both sides of the line. When he has been called into action, he has performed well.
Last season, Cannon started 8 games (including playoffs) and played the majority of another 1 at RT in relief for Vollmer. According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required), that was 300 pass blocking snaps. He surrendered 20 total pressures, which equates to a pressure surrendered once every 15 snaps. To put that number into context, Lamar Holmes’ rate was once every 9.7 attempts. Ryan Schrader was once every 13 attempts and Gabe Carimi back in 2012 was once every 8 attempts. Keep in mind Cannon also went up against some of the best edge rushers, including Cameron Wake (twice), Charles Johnson, Lamarr Woodley, the Bills’ duo Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, Robert Mathis and the Ravens’ Suggs-Doom combo.
The compensation I expect would be a late round pick. He is still stuck behind Vollmer and the Patriots drafted OT Cameron Fleming from Stanford in the 4th round this year. Fleming figures to be insurance in case Cannon leaves at the end of this upcoming season as his rookie contract expires. This is a similar situation to when we drafted Akeem Dent in Curtis Lofton’s contract year. I do think Cannon would be well worth it. We get him in exchange for a late pick, on a cheap contract and he’ll be our best RT with potential to be our franchise RT. Low risk high reward strategy. If he doesn’t work out, it’s not that big of a deal. At least we added competition and we’re only tied for one year.
As for the rest of the offensive line, I think we are looking fine heading into the season. Some people don’t like Joe Hawley but I think he’s solid and looking around the league, the center position is very dearth of talent. I don’t see anyone available for a reasonable trade that would be an upgrade.
We’re in a good position with our running backs. 4 capable backs that each bring different things to the table. It would be shocking to me if we don’t use them all. As for the wide receivers, I think they are a group we can improve but I doubt we will make a move. We have the so-called “big three”, Devin Hester is sticking as the return specialist so that only leaves one or two more spots. I can’t imagine the promise of being, at best, the #4 WR to be very enticing for players around the league. It’s always better filling these depth spots with upside players from the draft, something the Falcons have failed to do. The Falcons traded for TJ Yates earlier so that rules out the quarterback position.
That just leaves tight end and it is certainly an area we could target an upgrade. I’ve always liked James Casey of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is currently buried on the depth chart and all the Eagles did was add more mouths for Foles to feed. I don’t understand why he doesn’t see the field more because all he seems to do is make plays when he’s on it. He is a bit of a unique player but he can do everything well. He has good hands, builds up speed quickly and gets a lot of yards after the catch. His blocking skills are good in both areas and he has fullback versatility. He is just a talented all-round player. Like Cannon, the cost will be cheap and it’s well worth it when he could be a starter and a difference maker.
These are two moves which I feel would be very beneficial to the offense and would be more worthwhile than picking up guys off the waiver wire. I hope the Falcons think the same way.