Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged that the team is essentially finished with free agency after signing four players.
The team’s plan was not to spend “boldly,” but to add players at positions of need. The Falcons signed guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, tight end Luke Stocker and running back/returner Kenjon Barner.
Fixing the offensive line was the team’s No. 1 offseason priority after the unit gave up 42 sacks and a career-high 108 quarterback hits on Matt Ryan last season.
“We’re real excited about having two big dudes coming in,” Dimitroff said of the 6-foot-5, 321-pound Carpenter and the 6-4, 340-pound Brown. “They are accomplished guys. Have a lot of experience. Both of them fit in at the guard spots for us.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn and offensive line coach Chris Morgan have dodged questions about whether Carpenter will play left guard, his position with Seattle and the Jets, and if Brown will play right guard.
The team elected not to re-sign Andy Levitre, who opened the past four seasons at left guard. Brandon Fusco, who’s recovering from a broken ankle, was the right guard for the season opener last season, as was Wes Schweitzer in 2017.
Quinn mentioned Carpenter and Brown’s versatility. After being asked where the new guards will play, Morgan said, “We have a plan.”
The Falcons are hopeful that Carpenter and Brown will improve the Falcons’ interior-line play.
“There is no mystery about that,” Dimitroff said. “The history of where we were in the last couple of years and our guard situation, we needed guards that were going to come in and anchor for Matt.
“That’s a big thing for us. We love the fact that we have some size there, which is going to be good for us.”
In addition to securing the front of Ryan’s passing pocket, the Falcons hope that the new guards will improve the short-yardage attack.
“They can move the pile a little bit more than we have or hopefully a lot more than we have on those really important downs. The ones that are 1-yard downs is more of what I’m referring to,” Dimitroff said.
The Falcons have not finished adding offensive linemen.
“We like where we are there and will continue to grow there,” Dimitroff said. “Those guys will bring experience to our younger group, and we continue to develop (players) as well.”
Stocker is a blocking tight end who can play fullback.
“He’s another guy that’s going to add to our run game like the two guards,” Dimitroff said. “That’s an important thing for us. He also has the ability to line up at fullback as well.”
The Falcons did a double background check on Stocker.
“He worked with (Falcons tight end coach) Mike Mularkey before,” Dimitroff said. “(Falcons wide receivers coach) Raheem (Morris) drafted him at Tampa. We have a real good knowledge of Stocker.”
Barner is more insurance at running back, as Devonta Freeman is coming back from sports hernia surgery. Barner also returns kickoffs.
“We feel that we have a couple of guys on our team that we’re going to mix in there (at punt returner) without getting into details right now,” Dimitroff said. “Draft-wise, there are some interesting guys out there.”
The Falcons feel they’ve helped themselves without relying to heavily on owner Arthur Blank’s wallet, while up against a tight salary-cap situation.
“My point there is that we were very diligent about how we approached free agency, and we think that we’ve created some positives on our team,” Dimitroff said. “We have a whole draft with nine picks to go and continue to build in the areas that we know we need to continue to build on.”
Last season, the Falcons sparingly used fullback Ricky Ortiz. Stocker could replace him.
“We haven’t gotten into specifics on it,” Dimitroff said. “I think the fact that he has the ability and versatility to do that. Dan and I both did. Of course, Mike Mularkey has experience with him in that so, with the focus on the run game being so important this year, I think he’s going to be an important part whether if he’s coming off the line or if they are creative enough and move him out of the backfield. Versatility is key.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.