Continuing their “Black Friday,” the Atlanta Falcons announced the release of guard Justin Blalock and waived defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi today. That followed recent releases of running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Harry Douglas.
Blalock, 31, was among the team’s longest tenured veterans, being a second-round pick out of Texas in 2007. Blalock emerged as a starter right away in Atlanta at left guard, starting 14 games as a rookie. Beginning in 2008, Blalock started 100 consecutive games without missing a single offensive snap until that streak was broken this past year due to a back injury suffered in Week 4’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The following week’s matchup would be the only game Blalock missed and he continued to start the remainder of the season despite nursing the lingering back problems. Blalock started all 125 games he appeared in over eight seasons with the Falcons, which is the 20th most appearances of any player in franchise history.
Offensive guard now becomes a significant need for the Falcons with no obvious candidates to replace Blalock as a starter already on the roster.
Massaquoi, 26, was a fifth-round pick of the Falcons in 2012 out of Troy. As a rookie, Massaquoi played mostly on special teams in nine games. But he earned increase reps the following year in the wake of a season-ending injury to Kroy Biermann, starting four games at defensive end. He finished the year with 43 tackles and four sacks. Massaquoi was expected to see an increased role this past year, but saw limited playing time to start the season. He then had strong performances in the middle of the year, but suffered a foot injury that limited his reps over the second half of the season. Then after limited playing time, Massaquoi made public comments that questioned the Falcons former coaching staff’s usage of him, and then saw no playing time the following week. Massaquoi finished this past year with 22 tackles and two sacks.
Massaquoi was one of the Falcons’ few promising young pass-rushers, making his departure a surprise. But apparently the new coaching staff felt they could add a comparable talent this offseason, where upgrading the pass rush appears to be a priority.