After spending eight years with the team that drafted him in 2007, Justin Blalock will no longer be starting for the Atlanta Falcons. The veteran offensive guard was released by the team yesterday. Let's take a look at what led to his departure.
New offensive system
When Kyle Shanahan took over as the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, the discussion immediately shifted to implementing a zone-blocking scheme. That's the bread and butter of Shanahan's run game. Unfortunately, Blalock doesn't fit the mold of what the Falcons will be trying to accomplish.
Blalock is not the most agile linemen out there. His scores from the NFL Combine showed he works better for a power scheme. His size certainly makes him an enticing target for power-blocking teams. The Falcons will be looking for more athletic linemen to fit the needs for Shanahan's offense.
Here's what Shanahan had to say about his offensive lineman, per the AJC.
"The main thing when get these linemen in here, is we are going to get them to run," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "They are going to run more than they ever have before. We are going to challenge the defense sideline to sideline, not just between the tackles. It's a challenge to get guys to run and still be as physical as anybody."
Blalock's cap hit for 2015 was set to be the third-highest on the team at $7.91 million. Cutting him creates $3.79 million in cap space for the upcoming season.
Blalock signed a six-year, $38.4 million deal with the Falcons in 2011. His base salary was set at $4.75 million in 2015 and $6.15 million for 2016. His release creates $4.12 million in dead cap.
Cutting Blalock adds a sizable amount to the Falcons cap space for this year and frees up plenty of room for 2016. Considering he isn't an ideal fit for Atlanta's scheme, the move makes sense. Your third-highest paid player should probably fit the mold of what you're trying to do.
Jon Asamoah and Harland Gunn are the only guards listed on Atlanta's active roster right now. The Falcons will be adding several offensive linemen to come in and compete during free agency and the NFL Draft. Expect them to target offensive linemen who are a bit lighter and boast a more athletic style.
Losing Blalock understandably hurts. He started 125 games for the Falcons since 2007. He's been a reliable part of team that has seen quite a few changes since he entered the league. Blalock is also one of the nicest guys you'll meet. Just read what he had to say after he was cut.
More changes are likely ahead. This is only the start of the transition into the new Falcons roster.