Roster Analysis: Part IV

d4--2

The Mighty Quinn himself has said the “trenches” were going to be a major focus moving forward…

Now it starts to get juicy. Getting into the meat and potatoes of the Falcons, and one of the Falcons biggest weaknesses. First off let me just point out this little nugget I unearthed while doing my research. The Falcons offensive line troubles are even worse than we imagined. The Falcons currently only have 5 players under contract for 2016 who are any type of offensive linemen. Yes, I know, most of them were generally terrible anyway and we (the Cage at least) are hoping for big changes here. But the fact remains you’d typically like to go into camp with 16-17 or even more offensive linemen. So besides hopefully turning over 2-3 positions, we need bodies, lots and lots of bodies. With only 5 players here under contract, at least it’s not a major case of “who gets cut? who do we keep?”……

I’m formatting the offensive line a bit differently, kinda lumping them all together and not going through analysis on each player, mainly because it just isn’t worth the trouble to analyze a bunch of stiffs who won’t/shouldn’t be here in 2016 anyway

Part IV-Offensive Line

by Dewey

Tackles

d4--schraeder_watt-Jake Mathews, Ryan Schraeder, Jake Long, Bryce Harris

Jake Mathews-under contract through 2017 season, $4,480,773 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$9,708,341 dead money, $5,227,568 cap charge NOT savings

Cut post 6/1-$4,480,773 dead money, $0 cap savings

Trade-$5,134,364 dead money, $653,591 cap charge NOT savings

Ryan Schraeder-contract expired, restricted free agent.

Bryce Harris-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

Jake Long-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

Guards

d4-levitre_matthews-Andy Levitre, Collin Rahrig, Chris Chester, Ben Garland

Andy Levitre-under contract through 2018 season, $5,375,000 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$4,125,000 dead money, $1,250,000 cap savings

Cut post 6/1-$1,375,000 dead money, $4,000,000 cap savings

Trade-same as pre 6/1

Collin Rahrig-futures contract, terms not available at this time

Chris Chester-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

Ben Garland-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

Centers

d4-badsnap-Michael Person, James Stone, Gino Gradkowski

Michael Person-under contract through 2017 season, $1,166,666 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$333,334 dead money, $833,332 cap savings

Cut post 6/1-$166,666 dead money, $1,000,000 cap savings

Trade-same as pre 6/1

James Stone-under contract through 2016 season, $601,334 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$1,334 dead money, $600,000 cap savings

Cut post 6/1-same

Trade-same

Gino Gradkowski-contract expired, unrestricted free agency

d4-pushAnalysis: The Falcons offensive line was, well, mostly offensive for the season. Yes, the first 4-5 games, it looked like they had jelled together quicker than anyone imagined. Now it would appear that the defenses we played in those first few games were either (a)terrible, so we looked good (b)were over confident because they all knew what we hadn’t learned yet or (c)hadn’t jelled themselves yet. In any case, from about game 6 on, the offensive line got worse and snowballed out of control. Offside, bad snaps, holding, bad snaps, clipping, missed assignments, more bad snaps, completely whiffing on blocking assignments, and I’m not talking about got run over by a dlinemen, I’m talking start your backpedal and don’t touch a single defender without even so much as a courtesy “Look out Matt!” and did I mention bad snaps. The Mighty Quinn himself has said the “trenches” were going to be a major focus moving forward this offseason. Let’s hope he’s a man of his word. For 3 years now the average fan could see we needed offensive line help (some of us saw it coming much earlier than that). Bodies, good quality bodies is what we need here. And lots of them.

d4--1My Conclusion: “Now hear this! Those of you with a contract for the upcoming 2016 season, make damn sure you report to training camp on time, in shape, and ready to work your tail of to secure a spot on this roster. The rest of you, there’s the door. Good luck to you in your future in whatever field it might be! Schraeder, hold up a second, we’d like to talk to you.”

That’s right, everyone who has a contract is invited back. No cuts. Why? Because we need about 12 more offensive linemen just to get through camp, we start cutting any of the 5, yes FIVE, players under contract, and we’ll never reach the number needed. So, right now, Mathews, Levitre, Rahrig, Person and Stone make up your 2016 Atlanta Falcons offensive line. Matt Ryan, your insurance adjuster is on line 1. Obviously we need more, and some I have retained won’t make the cut. But we can make cuts later in camp to avoid cutting our noses off to spite our faces.
Ryan Schraeder will be invited back, sort of. As a restricted free agent, his contract negotiations for the 2016 season should be simple. There are 3-1 year tenders you can make to an RFA. Level 1, 1 year/$2.8+million. Level 2-1 year/$2.0+million. Level 3-1 year/$1.3+million. That’s it, you make one of those tenders, try to negotiate, or let him walk. I go with one of the 3 tenders. Now here’s the tricky part. Once you tender a restricted free agent, they are still able to negotiate with any team. If another team offers your RFA a contract, you have 10 days to match it or your RFA goes to that team. BUT, the Falcons would get compensation depending on what level they offered him. Level 1, if we let him go, we get that teams 1st round draft pick. Level 2, their 2nd round pick. Level 3, we get their draft pick equal to the round that player was drafted. If the player was an UDFA(like Schraeder), then you don’t get squat. So level 3 is out. I’d go with level 2. Though it’s unlikely someone would offer Schraeder a contract to lose a 2nd round pick, you never know. By starting at a $2million/year contract, the chances are an offer wouldn’t be so outrageous we don’t match it (if we so chose). Also, it gives us a lower starting point to start long term negotiations (if we so chose). Tendering him a level 1 gives us a greater reward should another team offer him, but I don’t see anyone giving up a 1st round pick for Schraeder and now we’re paying him $800,000 more than we need to and giving him a higher jumping off spot to start future negotiations with.

d4-4Jake Long would be my only other consideration to bring back. And, I’m sorry, I just don’t have the first hand knowledge on how his injuries are, or how they have/will continue to affect his performance level moving forward. But I’ll tell you this, if perennial all-pro Jake Long can come back at about 85% of what he was, I bring him back, at a modest contract and look at moving either Mathews to C, or Schraeder to G (where he has played in the past). I think Mathews could become just as good as C as he is an OT. But like I said, that’s a question that only the Falcons medical staff and coaching staff can answer with any certainty. I’m not counting on this happening.
With those moves, we would still need about 10-11 offensive linemen to go to camp with. We are set at our OT positions, but both OG’s and C are worse than a train wreck. Free agency is the first step. We can scrape the bottom of the barrel again and be in this same mess next year, or we can sign 1 or 2 or even 3, mid-to-upper level FA’s to get us out of this rut. The problem is, the best are usually kept by their current teams. So you need to be very careful who you shoot for. This current regime doesn’t have a strong track record when it comes to FA signings. Over spending here on a player that we end up cutting a year later could do more harm than good. I would make a serious play for JR Sweezy, OG from Seattle, but I wouldn’t go crazy. Start around $2.5 million/year with a ceiling of about $3.3 million. I wouldn’t go any higher than that. I’ve seen a lot of love thrown around for C Ben Jones (former UGA Dawg). I’d be happy with that, but once again, don’t overspend.

d4-3The draft is where we can find some other players. We need a C in the worst way, and I like the group of C’s in this year’s draft. Also, if we chose, we could pick up an OG in the draft. Besides the OG’s that are coming out, there are always a few college OT’s that project better to OG in the pros.

My choice? I try to find the best 2 OG’s and C I can in free agency. Not necessarily the best talent wise, but the best bargains. 2nd/3rd tier, modest contracts. Not bottom of the barrel like last season. Maybe, MAYBE draft a future prospect. But with only 4 picks(I don’t count 7th rounders for filling any gaps), if I can shore up both OG spots and the C spot in free agency, I concentrate my 4 draft picks on defense. Maybe Dimwit and Co. will surprise us and trade down once or twice accumulating extra picks and we can go after some olinemen for the future, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The rest of the oline roster will be filled in with lower tier FA’s and UDFA’s. You never know what you might find. Another Schraeder perhaps?

Prediction: The Falcons front office won’t cut anybody yet. And probably re-sign a couple of players. Harris? Gradkowski? Garland? Then we will tread lightly into free agency. Let the first wave of mad spending go by and then start working on 2nd/3rd tier players. I see them either filling both OG spots or the C and 1 OG spot through FA and working the draft for the other. The only problem with that is, if you’re focused in on one position, the general practice is usually to panic and reach for a prospect that is not worthy of the draft position he was taken (can you say Dezmen Southward?).

d4-sept9,08

And, oh, by the way– that’s a clean pocket…

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177 thoughts on “Roster Analysis: Part IV

  1. Flo-Ri-Duh

    **Monday (1/18/16) Final day for college underclassmen to declare for 2016 draft: (www.247sports.com)

    [SEC list only here but a record number of underclassmen declared for this draft – over 100]

    Notable Underclassmen Returning to School & Skipping the Draft: * Indicates Returning to School
    Alabama _
    *Jonathan Allen (DL)
    *Eddie Jackson (S)
    *O.J. Howard (TE)
    *Tim Williams (LB)

    Arkansas_
    *Kody Walker (RB)

    Aubarn_………………………………. [Shon Coleman (OT) & Avery Young (OT) declare for the draft]
    *Carl Lawson (DL)
    *Montravius Adams (DL)
    *Johnathan Ford (S)

    Florida_……………………………….[Vernon Hargreaves (CB) & Keanu Neal (S) declare for draft]
    *Jarrad Davis (LB)
    *Caleb Brantley (DL)
    *Marcus Mayes (S)

    Georgia_ ……………………………[ Leonard Floyd (OLB) declares for draft]
    *Quincy Mauger (S)

    LSU_
    *Travin Dural (WR)
    *Kendell Beckwith (LB)
    *Tre’Davious White (CB)

    Miss State_
    *Fred Ross (WR)

    Ole Miss_
    *Chad Kelly (QB)
    *Evan Engram (TE)
    *Tony Connor (S)

    S.Carolina_
    *Skai Moore (LB)

    Tennessee_……………………………………[ Marquis North (WR) declares for draft]
    *Cam Sutton (CB)
    *Alvin Kamara (RB)
    *Jaylen Reeves-Maybin (LB)

    Texas A&M_
    *Daeshon Hall (DE)
    *Justin Evans (S)
    *Josh Reynolds (WR)
    *Ricky Seals-Jones (WR)

    Reply
  2. Hamad Meander

    Without a doubt, you sign Ryan Schraeder to a long term deal. The dude has proven that he can play in the NFL, and any draft pick would be more risky than signing long term a guy that has proven it in the league. Having said that, the middle is a disaster. Money and a lot of it should be spent bringing in the top free agent Center available (Stefen Wisniewski, answer your telephone!). Draft one guard in the 2nd or 3rd round, and bring in Ted Larsen from the Cardinals for the other position. Crazy idea – have Toilolo bulk up to play backup tackle.

    Opening Day OL: Matthews (LT), Larsen (LG) Wisniewski (C), New guy (RG), Schraeder (RT). I’m pretty happy with that line up. It also allows us to trade down in the first round if necessary to pick up linebacker and defensive line help. Having (5) picks really limits what we can do in the draft unless we trade down.

    Reply
  3. Flo-Ri-Duh

    #1UFA Analysis OL: (stats credited to walterfootball.com)
    Flo’s UFA signing filter:
    #1 good injury history
    #2 reasonably good off-field history: no wife-beaters, dog-kickers or murderers need apply
    #3 age over 28 short-term contracts only (2 yrs or less)
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    West Coast Zone-Blockers on Flo’s Radar:
    OT: Listed in order of interest
    #1) Ryan Schraeder (OT), Falcons, age 28 – solid pass-blocker
    *YES – he’s the top OT on my UFA list of zone-blockers
    Prepare for sticker-shock if you think he will come cheap – there will be competition for his signature
    Flo’s estimate: $4.5 mill per yr. 4 yr contract – going rate for a good but not great ROT (spottrac.com)

    #2) Joseph Barksdale (OT), Chargers, age 28 – not great but steady in run or pass blocking
    *Flo’s estimate: $3 mill per yr. 4 yr. contract – made $2 mill in 2015 (spottrac.com)
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    C: Listed in order of interest
    #1) Stefen Wisniewski (C), Jaguars, age 26 – injured in 2014 but solid in 2015 – especially strong in pass protection
    * estimated: $4 mill per yr. 4 yr. contract – made $2.5 mill in 2015

    #2) Ben Jones (C), Texans, age 26 – moved from guard to center and would be definite upgrade over Person
    *estimated: $3 mill per yr. 4 yr contract
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    G: Listed in order of interest
    #1 Kelechi Osemele (G/OT), Ravens, age 27, – one of NFL’s best and versatile – has also starterd at LOT in 2015
    *estimated: $5 mill per yr. 4 yr. contract – made $1 mill in 2015 – coming off his original contract

    #2 Jeff Allen (G), Chiefs, age 26 – one of better G’s in NFL
    *estimated: $4 mill per yr. 4 yr. contract

    #3 Brandon Brooks (G), Texans, age 27 – solid upgrade as a pass-blocker over current Falcon starters
    *estimated: $3 mill per yr. 4 yr. contract – made $1.7mill in 2015 – coming off original contract
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    #1 Schraeder – $4.5 mill
    #2 Osemele – $5 mill
    #3 Wisniewski – $4 mill
    Cap Hit : $13.5 mill per yr.
    note: this included signing bonus, etc.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Reply
    1. Hamad Meander

      Well, those signings would definitely put pressure on Matt Ryan to produce big time, as he would be playing behind the best line he’s had in his career. Wouldn’t it be fun to see how good he could be?

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Hamad – That’s what I’m talking about…. MR had a legitimate excuse but didn’t say so publicly that his OL was lacking (being polite here). With the addition of just two new players to the offense and re-signing Schraeder, MR’s got no reason to not succeed. There is one other reason I suppose but it can be corrected with coaching – the RB’s and TE’s poor blocking led to about 10/11 of the sacks on MR in 2015.

        Reply
    2. Hamad Meander

      And by going big on offensive line in free agency, we get seasoned veterans that will play well (hopefully) from Day 1. Use the draft to get younger, better, faster on defense, and then you are building something real here.

      Reply
    3. Dewey

      Flo, with cap dollars at a premium, why not tender Schraeder the level 1 RFA contract, just over $2.8 million for 1 year. Anyone wants him will have to give up their 1st round pick to us. Doubt anyone would be willing to do that. Save $1.7 million.

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Dewey – That’s an option I suppose. Falcons must decide if Schraeder is their long-term solution at ROT. If so, treat him fairly with an honest contract for what he’s worth and lock him up for the next 3-4 years. Levitre got $4 mill or whatever and he’s a guard? If Schraeder is not their long-term answer at ROT then you can RFA him for one year while you find the answer. Don’t think you will find anyone giving up a 1st Rd choice for him but I could be wrong.

        Reply
    4. medallion

      Unfortunately, I can’t see us spending 13.5 million on resigning Schraeder and adding any two UFAs for the OL in light of salary cap complications and the gaps in other parts of the team. I am patiently biting my tongue on other gaps until Dewey (with assist from the maestro artist Arno) finish their wonderful reviews that I guess will – just guessing – address defense and maybe special teams with even more wonderful feature posts.
      With respect to your three mentioned players:
      (1) I hope we can keep Schraeder and I have been leaning towards a first round tender as noted in an earlier post. If he plays well again and stays injury free, then I would hope we could negotiate an extension.
      (2) With respect to Osemele, I don’t think he is a fit for the outside zone ZBS we are now primarily using to feature our two primary RB’s best skills when running (even though, as you have noted, he played some type of ZBS in college and with the Ravens). If we were now using a combination of PBS and inside zone ZBS, I would want Osemele if we could afford it. Whichever one of us is correct about whether he is a fit for our current offensive scheme seems unlikely to matter. If the Ravens don’t figure out how to keep him, he’s likely to get 7-8 million or maybe even 9-10 million per year from some team with lots more salary cap room than we have that uses just PBS or a combination of PBS and inside zone ZBS.
      (3) With respect to Wisniewski, he is currently my number 1 target for a FA center, with a hope for maybe 3 million per year for 2-3 years. Jacksonville has so much cap room that it could easily pay more than that to keep him – especially if Bortles likes him.

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        medallion – What you say is not unreasonable. Osemele could go much higher in a bidding war. Don’t think with their cap situation Ravens will offer him over $4 mill. I’m willing to sign him for $6 mill which he is probably worth. My next option is Jeff Allen (Chiefs). My goal is to get a long-term solution to OL problem so these guys on the OL will have continuity. Don’t like to keep changing the OL in a major way every year. Younger guys cost more but save money long term as contracts are skyrocketing for top players. There is “plan B”: there are a couple of older guys (over age 30) on my list I would sign for 2 years or less. Would prefer a long-term solution but an upgrade for the OL any way we can do it is a must do.

        I didn’t list my players to be released but that would create cap space to sign UFA OL. That’s the plan. Also, on a long-term contract it could be an escalating contract where the player gets less in ’16 lowering the cap hit in ’16. Falcons have done this many times. You already know most of what I’m saying – just explaining my “philosophy”.

        Reply
  4. waynester

    Falcons at East/West Shrine reported talking to UCLA OL Jake Brendel and SC State DL Javon Hargrave who’s been turning a lot of heads along with Michigan OC Graham Glasgow.

    Reply
    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      waynester – Yes it’s that time. It’s giving me hope for the future that they are do their homework and scouting guys that are not just big-name stars and they are looking at OL/DL. Yeah! Just hope they can recognize talent when they see it.

      Reply
  5. waynester

    Bucky Brooks has us taking Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith..D Jeremiah says Reggie Ragland. The Two best ILBs in the draft. Heads up Worrilow….

    Reply
    1. Paddy O

      I like worrilow, and he has a good nose for the ball at the LOS; but, covering he is too slow, and he is not stout, frequently gets run over.

      Reply
    2. Flo-Ri-Duh

      waynester- ILB is yet another position to fill. Not sure about Ragland’s range in coverage… Clemson game exposed some of his weaknesses. As for Jaylon Smith (ILB/OLB), we all know he’s going through late season rehab on an ACL surgery. I wouldn’t expect him to play at all in ’16 – though some optimistically say he could return mid-season. I wouldn’t rush that type of injury. After he’s healed up will he play ILB or OLB? I see him more outside – if he retains his quickness.

      Reply
    3. Chop Buster

      Ragland and is slow from what I’ve seen. He is very instinctive though. If we’re looking for a LB with speed to cover and physicality to blow up players we need to look elsewhere.

      Reply
    1. Dewey

      Those are my thoughts almost exactly word for word considering Ragland, and I’ll take it a step further. Any defensive front 7 player and any OL or RB scares the bejeezus out of me when it comes to projecting them to the NFL. Saban has these guys working in such concert with each other, it’s hard to tell if they’re really that good or just a part of something that’s that good. Look at the RB’s that have come out since Saban was there, Coffee, Richardson, Ingram, Lacy, Yeldon. Lacy’s been good, not great. Ingram’s had 1 really good season, the jury is still out on Yeldon, has looked good at times, but injuries have slowed him, Richardson and Coffee were busts. But all put up huge numbers at Bama, all-sec, ncaa 1st teamers, all drafted in the first 3 rounds.

      Reply
  6. Dewey

    My late father was a life long Cleveland Browns fan. He never lived in Cleveland, he liked their no-flair uniforms, really admired Paul Brown and loved Jim Brown as a football player. So, I keep up with the Browns from a far. Nostalgia I guess. Anyway, it looks like they may be targeting a QB 1st round and it seemed to me they’d done this a lot, so I decided to check. Since 2007, 9 seasons, they have drafted a QB in the first round 3 times (Quinn, Weeden, Manziel). Talk about wasting 1st round picks!

    Reply
      1. Dewey

        Worse than that, they have an inept owner who likes to call the shots. All 3 were mandated by the owner. Lots of good men have lost their livelihood in Cleveland because of it.

        Reply
  7. Wings

    Dewey interesting. I had an uncle who lived in Akron Ohio. He was always a fan of both the Browns and Indians. I always sorta kept up with the Browns. He was a good uncle and the Browns kept me in contact (in my mind) with him.

    Reply
    1. Dewey

      Funny how we can never let go of such things? Will probably pay attention to the Browns and Boston Red Sox (Dad’s other favorite team) until the day I pass.

      Reply
  8. Paddy O

    as an artilleryman, hitting infantryman in trenches would be a pretty easy job. Sort of like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Reply
  9. Dewey

    Sneak peek at what’s to come in my upcoming analysis. Right now, we barely have $28 million dedicated to defense (offense is over $74 million).
    2 players on our defense account for over $13 million combined. Any guesses?

    Reply

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