Falcons may get Matt Ryan some help

The Falcons are exploring how much money it will take to sign free-agent center Alex Mack, a three-time Pro Bowler, who voided an $8 million per year contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Before the NFL’s legal tampering period opened Monday, the Falcons said they would continue to look for bargains in free agency. Mack isn’t a bargain and could land a four- or five-year, $50 million contract.

“You can hit on some of the mid-line money guys, and they are going to have really important role on our team,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently. “We feel like we are going to continue to do that.”

After placing restricted free-agent tenders on linebacker Paul Worrilow and right tackle Ryan Schraeder and an exclusive-rights tender on free safety Ricardo Allen on Monday, the Falcons project to be $27 million under the salary cap at the start of the league’s new business year at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The problem contract for the Falcons is the one Pittsburgh gave to center Maurkice Pouncey on June 12, 2014. The Steelers signed him to a six-year, $45.89 million deal that included a $13 million signing bonus.

Also, former Baltimore guard Kelechi Osemele agreed to a deal this week with Oakland that averaged between $10 million and $11 million, according to NFL Media.

The Falcons have several needs as they enter the free-agency period, but have placed a premium on fortifying the interior of the offensive line. Mack, 30, would give quarterback Matt Ryan some serious protection, and he played one season in the Cleveland’s offensive attack under then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who now holds that job with the Falcons.

“It’s definitely something that’s at the center of our thinking, in terms of whether if it be free agency or the draft,” coach Dan Quinn said at the combine. “That line-of-scrimmage position for me is going to be something that years from now we’re going to continue to talk about, just to have that much regard and respect for what happens on the line of scrimmage on both sides. So the center position is one for us.”

The Falcons played a round of musical chairs at center last season, starting Mike Person, James Stone and Gino Gradkowski. The Falcons had simple problems with the quarterback-center exchange that led to Ryan having 12 fumbles, second-most in the league. Person was credited with four fumbles.

“I was really pleased with Mike in some areas and some I wasn’t,” Quinn said. “Same thing with Gino. Full competition is going to be on at the spot.”

After releasing starting strong safety William Moore in February, the Falcons are seeking to replace him in free agency. The team has been linked to free-agent safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson.

Iloka is the preferred candidate. The former Cincinnati Bengal is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and has played only four seasons in the NFL.

Nelson, 32, spent the past six seasons with the Bengals. Both also are coveted by Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, who was their former defensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

Quinn wants a better man-to-man coverage safety than Moore, who played strong in run support, but was a liability in coverage. The Falcons have struggled covering tight ends for years.

“Strong safety is a man-to-man coverage and tackling position,” Quinn said. “Those are some of the traits at that spot in specific.”

Iloka was a fifth-round pick out of Boise State in 2012. He’s started 44 of 51 games played with the Bengals.

Nelson was a first-round pick by Jacksonville in 2007. He adjusted his style of play over the years with the change in the defenseless player and strike-zone rules. He finished with career-high eight interceptions last season.

Iloka’s free-agency value is estimated at $5.6 million per season by spotrac.com, and Nelson’s is $4.8 million.

Other free agents linked to the Falcons during the tampering period include Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin, Cleveland right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan and Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy. Irvin, of Stone Mountain, is set to sign with Oakland.

The Falcons also had linebacker James Laurinaitis in for a visit Tuesday, but his signing was not imminent.