Ben Garland has played defensive tackle and guard for the Falcons. He has been a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2017 and a Salute to Service Award Winner in 2018, too, and he's packed all of that into three seasons in Atlanta. There's a reason he became a bit of a fan favorite in that time.
Now it appears we have to use the past tense to describe his tenure with the Falcons, as D. Orlando Ledbetter at the AJC reports the team won't be re-signing him.
Garland's calling card was his run blocking (and during that magical run as a defensive tackle, run stopping), but he was very solid all around in 2017 in relief of an injured Andy Levitre in the regular season and through the postseason. He once again stepped in with Brandon Fusco's injury in 2018 and was perhaps the strongest run blocker on the entire offensive line, but scuffled in pass protection and was eventually replaced by Zane Beadles, who is also a free agent and provided better pass protection. and far worse run blocking grades. Garland played defense in a Super Bowl and guard in a Divisional Round game, and the tape he put together during his Falcons tenure makes him a strong bet to find a new home quickly in free agency.
With the Falcons making no secret of their desire to improve the offensive line, Garland's departure is not a surprise. The team is likely to seek an upgrade over one of Fusco or Wes Schweitzer, if not both, and they'll want to acquire depth they're more comfortable with after a spate of guard injuries in recent years. They currently only have those two, 2018 UDFA Matt Gono, and 2017 fourth rounder Sean Harlow on the roster, and given that they tried to push Schweitzer out of a starting role last year and actually cut Harlow at one point, we're guessing they're not going to sit back and do nothing at guard. Fusco is probably the closest thing to a safe bet to start.
Letting Garland walk is part of a cap-clearing offseason, but it also arland does find his way back we'll welcome him, as the team who does sign him is still getting a quality reserve who can play center and guard and is an exemplary person. Garland's an active member of the Colorado Air National Guard, has been a core part of the most military-friendly team's outreach to veterans and active duty service members, and an active member of the community. If you're looking for intangibles and run blocking, Garland is your guy, and it would not be surprising to see the Cardinals make him the latest in a string of Falcons to join a rebuilding Arizona squad.
We'll wish Garland well wherever he lands, and we'll look forward to seeing what the Falcons have in store for the offensive line after a couple months of buildup.