With the signings of Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu, is the Atlanta Falcons offense set for 2016?
After a flurry of free agency signings, the Atlanta Falcons offense is looking in good shape for the 2016 season.
Entering the offseason the key areas in need of reinforcements were at the No. 2 wide receiver spot and at the heart of the offensive line. In just a couple of days of free agency beginning, the Falcons landed center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
Did they overpay? Well, yes. That’s what happens during the opening couple of days of free agency.
Mack’s five-year, $45 million contract with $28.5 million guaranteed is a major price to pay for a 30-year-old center being paid more for his reputation than future outlook. His 2018 cap hit of $10.8 million will be tough to stomach when he’s 32 and likely not the same player he is.
Sanu’s cap hit is just $2.4 million in 2016, but this rises to $7.4 million each year from 2017-2019 and then again to $7.9 million in 2020. In 2017, his cap charge will just shy of the Jets’ Brandon Marshall‘s ($7.5 million) and higher than the Raiders’ Michael Crabtree ($7 million). That’s a lofty price to pay for a player unproven as a No. 2 receiver.
Fact is the Falcons overpaid, but with just five picks in the 2016 NFL Draft their hands were somewhat tied.
Money aside, they have added two talented football players to positions desperately needing help. How many games would the Falcons have won if not for botched snaps and poor center play? That number could be 10, which perhaps would’ve sent Dan Quinn’s team on a playoff run. Mack will give the offense solid play in a critical position, and he should form strong chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan.
Sanu’s presence will ease the pressure off Julio Jones. Roddy White‘s production hit a wall in 2015 which led to his release, and the Leonard Hankerson experiment didn’t work after being plagued with injuries.
After failing to land Marvin Jones or Travis Benjamin, Sanu was the next target. At 6-foot-2 he will give Ryan another threat on the boundary defenses will need to respect. With Jones dominating coverage, Sanu should fit into a comfortable role outside. Second-year Justin Hardy will likely see an increased role in the slot.
As a whole, the Falcons’ offense looks to be in good shape. Ryan receives a lot of criticism, but watching the game of quarterback hot potato between the Jets, 49ers, Broncos and Browns should make fans appreciate the steady play Matty Ice provides. He needs to limit his mistakes next term, but the addition of Sanu and emergence of Hardy should give him the breadth of targets he needs.
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The offensive line put together a strong campaign in 2015, and Mack will plug up a major need at the heart of the line. His addition will help in a number of ways — the run blocking will improve as will Ryan’s protection. In this case, you get what you pay for.
And those running lanes Mack will help open up will put a smile on Devonta Freeman‘s face, who leads an exciting young tandem with Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Freeman will look to build on his breakout 2015 season which saw him pile up 1,639 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns.
Until he proves otherwise, Coleman will add the change-of-pace element every good backfield needs. His blazing speed can take the top off a defense, and so long as he can protect the ball better he’ll find a comfortable role as the complementary piece.
With just two free agency moves, the Falcons have upgraded the offense. If Ryan can reduce his errors from last season, the unit should hum in 2016.
Now, the emphasis can be placed firmly on defense for the remainder of the offseason.
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