Terry Fontenot’s time in New Orleans, alone, should reassure Falcons fans that the offensive and defensive lines will improve. From an article about the Saints’ past three years of free agency acquisitions,
NFL teams have doled out nearly $1.5 billion to offensive linemen over the last three years — more than the total money spent on linebackers, running backs, tight ends, and specialists combined.
Now, teams typically carry anywhere from eight to 10 offensive linemen on their active roster, and there needs to be a minimum of five on the field on every play, which helps explain some of that spending. But offensive linemen are also the top earners in terms of average annual value.
- Offensive linemen: $5.7 million
- Quarterbacks: $5.4 million
- Defensive backs: $5 million
- Wide receivers: $4.8 million
- Defensive linemen: $4.7 million
So not only have the Saints invested in most of their money into the offensive and defensive lines, but they also seem to hit on these free agents at an unprecedented rate — thanks to Fontenot. Malcom Brown, Larry Warford, and Jermon Bushrod were all brought in while Fontenot was director of pro personnel. His draft history with the Saints is equally impressive since becoming director of pro personnel:
It isn’t the only reason Atlanta’s trenches are on the up and up. Arthur Smith is a former offensive lineman, so not only does he know the mindset of them, but he also knows different techniques work for different linemen. This from my article on who benefits the most from Smith.
Not only will Smith be able to identify and correct bad technique, but he can also scheme around insufficient improvement. He kept the Titans’ offense scoring 30 points per game after losing Taylor Lewan and then his backup and former Falcon Ty Sambrailo. To help the short-handed offensive line, he kept tight ends — Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser — in more often to block. Doing so without surrendering any points.
Smith understands what type of blocking is easier in certain situations cause he’s been there. He is also building an impressive staff; Dwayne Ledford is coming on board to help the offensive line. This is just one more reason why the trenches will soon be a strength. Everywhere he went, the offensive line play improved dramatically, not to mentioned he developed one of the best young tackles in the NFL — Mekhi Becton.
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 22, 2021
Not only do the Falcons now have an eye for talent, but also the ability to coach them up. It all begins with Penei Sewell. Although the Falcons might choose to address the offensive or defensive lines in free agency — which begins March 17th — the most important part of revitalizing the offensive line is drafting Sewell at No. 4.
Ideally, the Falcons would cut James Carpenter and draft Sewell. Then address the defensive line in the later rounds and in free agency. I have no doubt this entire team will turn into one of the best in the league in the trenches.