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Falcons free agency preview: Four potential guards to keep a close eye on

Editor's note: This is the first of three position groups we'll take a closer look at heading into free agency, which begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 14.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As free agency draws closer, the questions surrounding what the Falcons roster might look like come March 14 and beyond continues to be a hot topic, especially with Falcons fans.


Fortunately for the Falcons, the majority of Atlanta's starters are under contract for the foreseeable future and the team doesn't appear have any major holes to fill. At least not yet.

With that being said, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn have constantly talk about the importance of building their team through the trenches.

The Falcons saw the immediate impact Alex Mack made in their offense after signing him in the 2016 free agency period, so that begs the question …

Would the Falcons continue to add to their offensive line through free agency?

All of the five starters along the Falcons offensive line are under contract for the upcoming season.

Center Alex Mack is coming off another Pro Bowl season and right tackle Ryan Schraeder received a five-year deal just last year. Left tackle Jake Matthews is entering the final year of his rookie deal as the Falcons exercised his fifth-year option in April of 2017.

Andy Levitre and Wes Schweitzer were the starters for the Falcons at guard for majority of the 2017 before Ben Garland filled Levitre's role after being placed on season-ending IR. And Levitre has been a reliable player for the Falcons the past two seasons before suffering a triceps injury that forced him to miss multiple games for the first time in his career. Levitre will be entering his 10th NFL season in 2018. Schweitzer started every game after not playing one snap in his rookie season after being drafted in the seventh-round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Overall, Atlanta's offense finished as the No. 13 ranked team in rushing yards (115.4) and No. 8 in the air (249.4) in the 2017 season.

So what will the Falcons do in free agency, anything? Time will tell, but just in case they decide to go down that road, here are some potential free-agent guards to keep an eye on when free agency begins:

Guard Andrew Norwell, 26, Carolina Panthers

Coming off a season in which Norwell didn't allow a sack or quarterback hit for the Panthers in his 1,066 snaps taken in the 2017 season. He also had the third-highest Pro Football Focus grade among all guards in the NFL. Norwell is expected to become one of the highest paid players at his position given his skill and age. With the need for top tier offensive linemen in the league, his asking price could get steep. According to Spotrac, the average annual salary for Norwell will be around $11.7 million. Do the Falcons want to get in the bidding war for Norwell?

Guard Josh Sitton, 31, Chicago Bears

The Bears reportedly declined to pick up the $8 million option on Sitton. The veteran guard played in 26 of 32 games for Chicago, missing the Bears' final two games last season with an ankle injury. Despite missing those games, Pro Football Focus ranked Sitton as the fifth-best guard in 2017. Prior to signing with Chicago, Sitton spent eight years in Green Bay, earning four Pro Bowl nods.

Guard Josh Kline, 28, Tennessee Titans

Kline started all 16 games for the Tennessee Titans at right guard last season which included two playoff games. After spending three seasons in New England, Kline was claimed by the Titans and started 14 games for Tennessee in 2015. Pro Football Focus gave Kline a 75.8 grade among guards in 2017.

Guard Jack Mewhort, 26, Indianapolis Colts

A second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Mewhort was an impact player immediately for the Colts. He started all 30 games in his first two seasons and in 2015 allowed zero sacks on Andrew Luck. The question surrounding Mewhort of late pertains to his recent injuries. In 2016, Mewhort missed six games and in 2017, he missed five games with a knee injury.

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