Falcons Lock Up Justin Blalock For Six Years

The Falcons nailed down their most important remaining free agent Sunday when they signed Justin Blalock to a reported six-year, $38 million deal. Music to my ears.

The teams who have sustained success in the NFL are often the ones who have great offensive lines. The Falcons may not be fielding the most dominant group of colossal men in the league right now, but Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo are all varying degrees of stone solid. Pro Football Focus ranked the Falcons' offensive line sixth in the league in 2010, and they were extremely stingy with penalties all season.

Blalock has been a big part of that success. After a stumbling start to his career that saw him blow some blocking assignments and create a few too many penalties, he's rarely been had the yellow flag thrown his way, and he graded out as Pro Football Focus' seventh-best guard in 2010. Considering he's still just 27 years old, ensuring the Falcons will have him in the fold until he's 33 was another great move. This front office has shone this off-season.

It was also critical to lock up Blalock because Baker is arguably the line's weakest link, accountable for more than a third of the team's sacks allowed in 2011. Sticking an unproven player next to the guy most likely to relinquish a sack—especially the one guarding Matt Ryan's blind side—would not have been a great move.

Now right guard is the only unsettled position on the offensive line. The Falcons have plenty of worthy candidates to trot out there, though Mike Johnson appears to be the front runner. His primary competition is Garrett Reynolds, who as you'll recall from yesterday's post is two pounds lighter and two inches taller than himself. That's going to make it pretty tough for him to win out.

Welcome back Blalock. After you've done that, tell us who you think is going to win that right guard competition.

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