CBS Sports recently named the most indispensable non-quarterback on every roster. There were plenty of choices for the Atlanta Falcons, but they went with left tackle Jake Matthews.
Matthews is certainly compensated like he’s the Falcons’ most-irreplaceable player. His $28.3-million salary-cap hit is $8 million more than Grady Jarrett who comes in second and more than doubles Chris Lindstrom at No. 3.
He has the seventh highest cap hit in the NFL and highest of any offensive lineman.
With Tyler Allgeier behind rookie Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith now behind Kyle Pitts, neither RB nor TE is short on depth. Young QB Desmond Ridder needs to stay upright to feed the weapons, however, and Matthews is a solid blind-side bodyguard.Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports
The offensive line is the identity of this young offense, and left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line.
However, if Matthews were to go down, the Falcons could turn to second-round draft pick Matthew Bergeron to play left tackle. Naturally there would be a drop-off from Matthews to Bergeron, but would it be as dramatic as the drop-off from Chris Lindstrom to anyone else?
Obviously the Falcons don’t want to find out, but Lindstrom was the highest-graded player at any position by Pro Football Focus (PFF) last season. His possible replacements would include Bergeron, Matthew Hennessy, Jalen Mayfield, and Justin Shaffer.
Hennessy is currently getting reps at first-team left guard. An interior line of Hennessy, Drew Dalman, and Bergeron looks far less formidable without Lindstrom.
Benjamin describes Matthews as a “solid blind-side bodyguard,” and he’s right. However, Lindstrom is on the short list for best offensive lineman in the NFL… period.
Looking at the defensive side of the ball, Atlanta upgraded the depth and talent across the board. No longer is it just Grady Jarrett and his merry men up front. Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham, and Eddie Goldman are as good a group of defensive lineman that the Falcons have had in years.
The edge position lacks a true-superstar, but there is strength in numbers with Arnold Ebiketie, Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, and DeAngelo Malone.
Several national pundits pointed to the Falcons receivers as a place that needs more help. Second-year pro Drake London is far and away the No. 1 option at wide receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson, Bijan Robinson, and Kyle Pitts will be used extensively in the passing game, but none are true wide receivers.
Matthews is a good choice for a player the Falcons can least afford to lose. However, on the offensive line, we’d still say Chris Lindstrom.
But across the roster, the Falcons’ passing game would take a severe hit without London.