Falcons sign Carimi to bolster struggling O-line

Gabe Carimi played in Chicago under new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons signed veteran free-agent offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, a former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, in an effort to bolster what was possibly the NFL’s worst offensive line in 2013.

Carimi played in Chicago under new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice when Tice served the same role with the Bears. Carimi, 25, was traded by Chicago to Tampa Bay for a sixth-round pick in June 2013 and was cut recently by Tampa Bay, now coached by Lovie Smith. Carimi played under Smith in Chicago.

The move signals increased competition on the offensive line for the Falcons, as it’s also anticipated that the Falcons could draft an offensive lineman with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft this spring. Sam Baker essentially has been the starter at left tackle since 2008 but he has been unable to finish several seasons, including this past one, owing to numerous injuries. It also could show dissatisfaction with Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick in 2012 who started 15 games last season, moving from the right to left sides, as necessary because of injury.

The 6-foot-7, 316-pound Carimi, who played with Falcons offensive lineman Peter Konz at Wisconsin, has struggled with knee injuries during his brief career. He played in only two games as a rookie in 2011. He started 14 games in 2012 while playing in all 16 and then started only three for Tampa Bay last season.

The Falcons averaged the fewest rushing yards in the NFL last season and allowed quarterback Matt Ryan to be sacked 44 times, by far a career high.