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Atlanta Falcons Free Agency, Offensive Line Preview: Despite Sinking Saints, Carl Nicks Signing Not Likely

It's no big secret that the Falcons' offensive line was responsible for some hefty disappointment in 2012.

"Starters" Sam Baker, Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynolds all displayed some major weaknesses in their game, and while one season perhaps isn't enough to spell doom for any of these players, we still remember that a huge part of this offense's struggles against the Giants were caused by the guys up front.

And so began the pining for All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who's looking for a hefty contract this offseason. Given all that has happened recently regarding the Saints in recent days (read: Drew Brees and his $17M franchise tag), I think it's pretty safe to say that Nicks won't be a Saint for much longer.

But with $10.6M already committed to Brent Grimes, why would anyone assume Nicks could be a Falcon either?

The problem is that Nicks is the premier free agent on the market outside of Mario Williams and perhaps Peyton Manning if that should occur.

All sources seem to indicate that Nicks' primary motive will be money (who can blame him?), and should it come to that there are several teams with gobs of cap space (Bengals, Buccaneers) that could easily win a bidding war with the Falcons.

Also consider that the Falcons still have several other free agents to sign: Curtis Lofton, John Abraham (now looking less likely than ever), Thomas DeCoud and Harry Douglas.

And then there's Todd McClure, whom Mike Smith rightfully praised as the cornerstone of the O-line for the past four years. The Falcons will definitely try and keep their lifelong center around for a couple more years, with no proven replacement on the roster and Joe Hawley failing to stick last season.

So what, then? The Falcons still have a hole at right guard, and two mediocre left tackles in Baker and Svitek.

Once free agency hits, we'll likely see Thomas Dimitroff target one of two players, specifically: Ravens OG Ben Grubbs, and Patriots OG Dan Connolly. Both would be solid additions to the line, and both would cost significantly less than Nicks.

Of course, there are options at left tackle OT Demetrius Bell and perhaps even OT Marcus McNeill. But with so few legitimate options, Falcons fans may have to grit their teeth and bear one more season of the Baker-Svitek duo. Did you hear that? Matt Ryan's knees just buckled.

With so many other areas to address this offseason, it's not a stretch to say that regardless of how woeful the front five was last season, it'll still look fairly similar in 2012. *Sad face*

For more, check out Falcons blog The Falcoholic or head over to the SB Nation NFL hub page for free agency rumors, the draft and more.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.