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Offseason Focus: O-Line


The Falcons' offensive line has been a staple of consistency during the Mike Smith era, however, some changes and injuries saw the line struggle at times during the 2011 season. The departure of Harvey Dahl opened the door for a new starter at right guard. Garrett Reynolds began the season as the starter with Joe Hawley manning the center position while 13-year veteran Todd McClure missed the first two games with an injury.

Once McClure returned to solidify the center position, Hawley moved to guard and the offensive line began to gel. With McClure in charge and Matt Ryan at quarterback, the Falcons have never finished below the top-10 in the league in sacks allowed. The line has not finished lower than 17th in rushing since 2008, finishing second that season.

Of the five starters for the Falcons on the O-line, McClure is the only free agent heading into 2012. The veteran said recently he hopes to play another season and wants to return to Atlanta.

The other starters — Justin Blalock, Will Svitek, Tyson Clabo and Joe Hawley — are signed through next season. Svitek's contract expires first after the 2012 season. Blalock and Clabo signed new deals with Atlanta before the regular season began this year and each are locked up through at least 2015.

Hawley, a first-year starter in his second season, is signed through 2013. Reynolds, a 2009 fifth-round pick, is signed through 2012.

The player that Svitek took over for when injuries pushed him out of the starting lineup this season, Sam Baker, has one season remaining on the rookie contract he signed in 2008 after Atlanta made him a first-round draft pick.

A promising figure on the line, Mike Johnson, a 2010 third-round pick, missed most of the 2011 season with injuries, but is signed through 2013. Kirk Chambers and Brett Romberg's contracts were never made public.

Jose Valdez and Andrew Jackson were both practice squad players last season. While Jackson can return to the Falcons' practice squad next season, Valdez' practice squad eligibility has ended and he'll need to make the active roster in order to stay with the team. All players on the practice squad are considered free agents and can sign with any team.

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