The NFL’s offseason free agency period started Wednesday, and the Falcons moved quickly to secure two big names. A third is rumored to be close to signing with Atlanta, but that deal is not yet done.
The big news is that the Falcons signed former Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack and former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub. They’re still working on landing former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, but he is reportedly going to visit with the New England Patriots before making his final decision.
Here’s what you need to know about all three.
Remember how the Falcons’ offensive line struggled to block for quarterback Matt Ryan in 2015? Remember how many times the center failed to snap the ball cleanly to Ryan? Mack is expected to help with both of those problems.
Since the retirement of Todd McClure, the Falcons have struggled to find anyone reliable at the center position. Mack is a 30-year-old with a strong history of great play in the NFL, and that’s something the Falcons desperately need along the line. Mack didn’t miss a single snap in the first five seasons of his career but broke his fibula in 2014, according to AtlantaFalcons.com.
Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and was a second team All-Pro in 2013. The Falcons have him for the next five years at a cost of $9.5 million per year. He would have made $500,000 more per year to stay in Cleveland, but wanted to play for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.
Yes, Michael Vick’s former backup has returned to Atlanta.
The Falcons inked Schaub to serve as Ryan’s backup quarterback, 10 years after he ended his first stint in Atlanta. Since then, Schaub has played in Houston, Oakland and Baltimore, serving mostly as a backup in recent years.
Schaub will only play if something goes horribly wrong, but it’s always good to have a seasoned veteran in that role. Things haven’t gone well for him lately, but we’ll likely only see him in the preseason.
A deal with Sanu is far from done, but the Falcons appear to be one of the finalists in the running for his services. According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the 26-year-old receiver will visit Atlanta Wednesday night, then fly to New England to meet with the Patriots after that. We’ll likely know soon where he’s headed.
Sanu would be a nice piece for the Falcons to add, but they’ll need other help opposite Julio Jones. He’ll probably catch 50 passes in a season, which would hardly be enough to equal Roddy White’s 2015 output. Still, the Falcons have voids to fill at that position, and there aren’t many great options left.
One thing’s for sure – Sanu was great against the Falcons. In one game back in 2014, Sanu had three catches for 84 yards – one of which was a 76-yard touchdown that made Atlanta’s secondary look silly. If he can bring that explosive playmaking ability to Atlanta, the Falcons’ offense could get back to its old, exciting ways.
Photo: AP/David RichardFollow @Sean_Breslin