Thomas Dimitroff was a guest on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday and indicated the Atlanta Falcons are prepared to move forward without right guard Chris Chester. Chester has been the Falcons starting right guard for the last two seasons. He started every Falcons game at right guard this past season.
Chester is an unrestricted free agent and has been contemplating retirement since the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss. “If I were betting on it, I’d say it’s time for him to make his move to the next part of his life,” Dimitroff said. “He was a really good asset for us, of course. He helped solidify that (interior line) with (center) Alex Mack and (left guard) Andy Levitre.”
The Falcons currently have three options on the roster to start at right guard next season. 2016 sixth-round draft pick out of San Jose State Wes Schweitzer, versatile Ben Garland, and free agent signee Hugh Thorton.
“They’ll battle for sure at the guard spot, and (we’ll) see where it goes,” Head Coach Dan Quinn said about Garland and Schweitzer. “Both of them are unique. Both of them, in the run game, are really rock solid. Pass protection is something where you have to get in the fire. You have to go through it and do it.”
In terms of experience, Thorton has the upper hand with 32 starts under his belt. He would likely be the best run blocker of the group if he can prove he is healthy. Schweitzer nearly beat out Chester for the starting job last offseason and has experience in a zone-blocking system at San Jose State. Garland was more valuable on defense last season but has the toughness and grit to excel next to All-Pro center Alex Mack.
The Falcons could also look to the draft for an upgrade. Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney are the guards projected to go highest during April’s draft. Both of those players possess the athleticism to excel in the Falcons zone-blocking scheme as well.
Josh Schultz is a staff writer for Pro Football Spot’s Atlanta Falcons Coverage. Follow Josh on twitter @draftblackboard and on his Facebook page: Josh Schultz, Pro Football Spot.