Free agent linemen list unimpressive

Could the Falcons look to San Francisco for help on the offensive line?

The list of available free agent offensive linemen is not impressive. ESPN’s Bill Polian, who is going into the Hall of Fame this summer for his tremendous work in NFL front offices, listed the best available free agents earlier Tuesday.

Polian rated the players with classroom grades, from A+ down to C-. The highest rated player was a B- and that was former San Francisco guard Mike Iupati. Polian wrote, “He ranks among the best run-blockers in the league. He possesses outstanding strength, leg drive, punch and aggressiveness. He is less effective in space when pass-blocking.”

The next offensive lineman listed was Packers free agent tackle Bryan Bulaga, whom Polian rated as a B. Polian believes Bulaga “is a solid all-around offensive tackle who is particularly well-suited to the Packers' offensive scheme.”

The rest of the linemen are all rated as C players. They include (in alphabetical order): Guards Daryn Colledge (Dolphins), Willie Colon (Jets), Dan Connolly (Patriots), Vladimir Ducasse (Vikings), Orlando Franklin (Broncos). The centers include Brian de la Puente (Bears), Jonathan Goodwin (Saints), Rodney Hudson (Chiefs) and Stefen Wisniewski (Raiders). The tackles are King Dunlap (Chargers), Doug Free (Cowboys), Ryan Harris (Chiefs) and Jerry Linkenbach (Chiefs).

The Falcons are desperate for offensive line help. There are eight linemen on the roster, with four coming off significant injuries last season. Another, Jake Matthews, had surgery at the end of the season.

But if the group of free agents is not impressive, does that mean the Falcons will be forced to draft an offensive lineman early in the draft? Yes, it probably does. If there is ambiguity about the tweeners that might be available on defense, then wouldn’t the Falcons be better off drafting Brandon Scherff from Iowa if he were available at number eight in the first round?

Yes, they would. Scherff should be as important as anyone on their draft board. The Falcons can improve their depth with a signing or two in free agency, but will they really fix the problem with so many questions on the offensive line?

This makes you wonder if the defense will be the priority in defense and the offensive line is addressed through the draft. While the drafting of another offensive lineman with a second straight first round pick might be deemed unusual, who cares if the Falcons address their needs and improve the line of scrimmage?

Putting Scherff with Matthews would give the Falcons bookend tackles for the rest of Matt Ryan’s career with the Falcons. And if the free agency offensive linemen are not impressive enough to make a dramatic difference in the talent level, then the draft may be the answer.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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