Justin Blalock

Justin Blalock To Retire

1:04pm: Blalock appears to have confirmed Rapoport’s report, publishing the following statement (TwitLonger link):

“I’d like to sincerely thank the Atlanta Falcons, all my teammates and especially the fans. I’ve had an unbelievable 8 years and only wish I could have helped bring a championship to the ATL.”

12:45pm: After being released by the Falcons earlier in the offseason, veteran guard Justin Blalock has decided to retire, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Blalock, 31, had been a mainstay at the left guard spot in Atlanta since entering the league in 2007, having started all 125 games he played during his career with the Falcons. The former second-round pick continued to be viewed an above-average guard by Pro Football Focus right up until his release — Blalock received positive grades from the site for each of the last five seasons (subscription required).

For the Falcons, Blalock’s price tag was too high, but it seemed as though the guard would land elsewhere. He paid a visit to the Lions, and the Rams and Titans reportedly had some level of interest in him as well. It’s possible that the alleged interest from those teams never materialized into a formal offer, though Blalock may have simply decided he preferred not to continue his NFL career with a new team.

With Blalock apparently off the market, players like Rob Sims, Dan Connolly, and perhaps newly-released Sam Baker, who has spent most of his career playing tackle, are among the top veteran guards available. Of course, the prize of the group at this point is Evan Mathis, cut by the Eagles last week.

When Blalock makes his decision official, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him re-sign with the Falcons on a one-day contract before calling it a career.

West Rumors: Rivers, Floyd, Cards, Rams

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers isn’t going to be traded, all signs so far have pointed to him playing out the 2015 season without a new contract in place. Still, as Rivers said on Friday, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, that remains a fluid situation.

“A lot of moving parts and lots to think about,” Rivers said. “Location, family, team … All I can say at this point regarding an extension is I’m willing to listen to anything. I’m also willing to play it out. I’m just fired up to be the Chargers QB in 2015.”

While we wait to see if the Chargers and Rivers move forward with extension discussions, let’s round up a few more items from around the NFL’s two West divisions….

  • According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter), the Cardinals are willing to listen to trade inquiries on wide receiver Michael Floyd, but no one has expressed interest so far. I imagine most teams are open to listening to calls about most players, but the fact that this tidbit is out there without Floyd having generated any interest suggests that the team is very open to the idea. Arizona picked up Floyd’s fifth-year option this week.
  • The Cardinals tried to move up ahead of the Steelers in the first round last night, in the hopes of landing Bud Dupree, tweets Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910. Of course, Arizona didn’t end up completing a trade, and Pittsburgh selected the Kentucky pass rusher.
  • There’s “absolutely nothing” going on between the Rams and free agent guard Justin Blalock at this point, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). After not picking an offensive lineman in round one, the Rams will almost certainly have to address their line at some point today or tomorrow.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Justin Blalock

With Michael Crabtree and Stefen Wisniewski finding new homes last week, only one free agent on PFR‘s Top 50 list — tackle Justin BlalockJoe Barksdale — remains unsigned. Barksdale (whom I profiled last month) might be the biggest name left on the free agent market, but there are other steady options available, including those who, like Barskdale, play along the offensive line. One such player is guard Justin Blalock, who didn’t earn a spot on our Top 50 list, but did garner a honorable mention.

Blalock was released by the Falcons — his only NFL team for all eight of his pro seasons — in late February, a few weeks before the start of free agency. As PFR’s Luke Adams noted at the time, the transaction was a bit of a surprise, given that Blalock had been a productive contributor during his time in Atlanta. However, he was set to count nearly $8MM against the salary cap in 2015, which would have been the third-highest figure on the club. Additionally, there were concerns that Blalock, a successful guard in a power scheme, wouldn’t be a fit for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s zone-blocking concepts.

The 31-year-old Blalock has generated a fair amount of interest since his release, and given that he’s been linked to teams with severe offensive line issues, it’s a tad stunning that he hasn’t found a new home yet. The Rams immediately displayed interest in Blalock, and were reportedly set to meet with him at some point (though it’s unclear if that meeting ever took place). Blalock did take a visit with the Lions, while the Buccaneers also showed some level of intrigue.

The level of interest engendered by Blalock shouldn’t come as a surprise, because he’s certainly been a good player throughout his career. His rookie season notwithstanding — he had the dubious honor of being ranked as the league’s worst guard in 2007 — according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Blalock has been remarkably reliable, topping out with a No. 12 finish in 2010 before settling in as a top-30 guard since. The former second-round pick has also been incredibly durable, as he’s missed just two games during his eight-year career.

Blalock should be able to latch on with a new team soon, and it’s conceivable that one of the clubs mentioned above could still sign him. St. Louis, in particular, has a gaping hole at right guard, where Barrett Jones is currently projected to start, as does Tennessee, where career backup Byron Stingily is atop the depth chart. The Patriots, Chargers, and (if they don’t want to rely on Chris Williams) Bills are clubs that both have a vacancy at guard and run a man-blocking scheme.

Outside of the Rams, I think the Lions could present the best fit for Blalock. They’ve already shown interest in him, and they currently a hole at left guard, pending the outcome of their talks with their owner free agent guard, Rob Sims. Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew indicated last month that the team was in negotiations with Sims, but nothing has come of those discussions as of yet. Blalock was the better player in 2014 (Sims was PFF’s No. 40 guard), and while Blalock earned more last year, I’d bet the two will ultimately earn similar money in 2015.

Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com pointed to Blalock as a option for the Lions earlier this month, so it could be that Detroit is waiting for either Blalock or Sims to accept an offer that’s already on the table. Responding to a Twitter question today, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com argued that the club’s most pressing need was at left guard as opposed to right tackle — at RT, says Twetyman, the Lions at least have LaAdrian Waddle, who has some experience, while the team has no such option at left guard. An addition of Blalock would give Detroit a line of (left-to-right) Riley Reiff, Blalock, Travis Swanson, Larry Warford, and Waddle, a solid (if uninspiring) group.

Left guard isn’t a highly-paid position, and Blalock won’t be able top Geoff Schwartz‘s $4.2MM AAV from last offseason. While he plays a different position, Wisniewski recently received $2.5MM from the Jaguars, and while he’s probably a better player than Blalock, he’s also recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, lowering his value. I’d guess that Blalock will ultimately come in around $2-3MM, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions or the Rams were the club that signed the Texas alum.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Mailbags: Saints, Lions, Bears, Vikings

We took a look at ESPN.com’s AFC mailbags earlier this morning. Let’s now shift our focus to the NFC…

  • Mike Triplett believes the only way the Saints move on from Drew Brees is if they are confident in their backup plan. While the quarterback’s production has dropped, Triplett is still confident Brees will be one of the best at his position in 2015.
  • While the Lions could fill the majority of their roster holes via the draft, Michael Rothstein focuses on a couple of positions that could be fixed in free agency. The writer points to left guard, suggesting free agents Justin Blalock or Rob Sims.
  • 2015 will be a big season for Bears defensive end Cornelius Washington, writes Michael C. Wright. The player still has two years left on his contract, but he hasn’t shown much during his brief time in the NFL. With all the veteran defenders on the roster, there’s a chance that Washington could be on the outside looking in.
  • Ben Goessling points to safety Harrison Smith as being the Vikings player most likely to receive an extension prior to the season. The writer suggests the organization also explore an extension for kicker Blair Walsh.
  • Rob Demovsky says the Packers should now focus their attention on locking up defensive tackle Mike Daniels and cornerback Casey Hayward. However, considering the money thrown around this offseason, Demovsky says it may be in the players’ best interests to explore free agency.

NFC Notes: Bennett, Lions, Rams, Jennings

Speaking to reporters in Arizona today, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said that defensive end Michael Bennett hasn’t requested a trade and is happy in Seattle, tweets Terry Blount of ESPN.com.

A report last week indicated that Bennett wanted a new contract, and perhaps a trade to Dan Quinn‘s Falcons, but even if that’s the case, it doesn’t look like the Seahawks have any plans to move him. For what it’s worth, Schneider appeared to dodge the issue of whether the defensive end wants his contract reworked, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets.

Schneider also confirmed that defensive lineman Jesse Williams will be re-added to the Seahawks’ roster soon, indicating that Williams was only waived as a procedural transaction (Twitter link via Condotta).

Here’s more out of the NFC:

  • Lions GM Martin Mayhew confirmed today to reporters, including Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News (Twitter link), that his team is in talks with free agent guard Rob Sims about a new deal.
  • The Rams are keeping their eye on free agent offensive linemen like Joe Barksdale, Stefen Wisniewski, and Justin Blalock, but the club isn’t expected to sign any of those players this week, tweets Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • While the Cowboys aren’t likely to make any other noteworthy free agent investments, Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com suggests the club could go bargain shopping, identifying offensive tackle, safety, and return man as three potential areas of need.
  • Panthers owner Jerry Richardson took responsibility for the organization’s decision to not re-sign embattled defensive end Greg Hardy. “Whose call would you think that would be?” Richardson asked ESPN.com’s David Newton. When asked about the owner’s logic, Richardson replied that the Panthers “do the right things.”
  • When wideout Greg Jennings left the Packers for the Vikings in 2013, the veteran displayed some animosity towards the organization. However, Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson made it clear that those kinds of comments wouldn’t dissuade his team from pursuing the 31-year-old. “We’re not that sensitive about things like that,” Thompson said (via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com). “Players are players. Players say things. Sometimes we make mistakes [too].”

FA Rumors: Spiller, Bowe, Falcons, Ridley

The rumors connecting C.J. Spiller to New Orleans continue to trickle in on Friday. After we heard on Wednesday that the Saints are “in the mix” for the former Bills running back, a Thursday report indicated that the team is “very high” on him. Today, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests that strong interest is mutual.

The Saints have already re-signed Mark Ingram to a $4MM annual salary, and were cap-strapped heading into this week, but the team has made a number of cost-cutting moves, and could have more on the way. Spiller will likely command a deal in the same neighborhood as Ingram’s, so it’s possible that New Orleans will have the flexibility to complete such a deal, but nothing’s finalized yet.

Here’s more on free agency:

  • Following up on a Thursday report which suggested that the Browns have interest in Dwayne Bowe, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link) classifies Cleveland’s interest in Bowe as “strong.” Even after adding Brian Hartline in free agency, the Browns are probably in need of at least one more starting wide receiver.
  • After paying a visit to the Broncos, free agent safety Darian Stewart is headed to Atlanta to visit the Falcons, source tell Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Denver had been hoping to lock up Stewart to help replace the departing Rahim Moore, but the former Raven continues to weigh his options.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds (via Twitter) that the Falcons also plan on bringing in a tight end for a visit today, though it’s not clear exactly who that player will be.
  • Stevan Ridley and the Cowboys could be a good match on a one-year, prove-it deal, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe adds (via Twitter) that there’s “definitely interest” on both sides, but nothing is brewing at this point. Even if the Cowboys add a veteran free agent at running back, they’ll probably plan on addressing the position in the draft.
  • Veteran guard Justin Blalock had a good visit with the Lions, and also continues to draw interest from the Rams and Titans, tweets Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. We heard earlier in the week that the former Falcons guard had a visit with the Rams on his docket, so perhaps he’s headed to St. Louis next.

North Rumors: Blalock, Rolle, Ravens

Veteran offensive lineman Justin Blalock is paying a visit to the Lions today, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Yesterday, we learned that St. Louis and Detroit both have interest in the ex-Falcon, and that he planned to visit the Rams as well.

  • A day after agreeing to sign with the Bears, Antrel Rolle tells SiriusXM NFL Radio that his decision came down to Chicago and Washington, and adds that he’s not sure why the Giants seemingly had no interest in bringing him back (Twitter links).
  • The Ravens have preliminary interest in former Bills tight end Scott Chandler, league sources tell Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). Chandler, 30 in July, was released by the Bills on Tuesday.
  • The Ravens are looking to bring in a veteran to challenge quarterback Keith Wenning for the backup job, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets. There’s not a whole lot of quality free agent quarterbacks remaining, however.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Rams Rumors: Blalock, Fairley, Williams

A quick look at the Rams..

  • Free agent guard Justin Blalock plans on visiting the Rams but the Lions are also in the mix for him, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch tweets. The Lions and Blalock haven’t finalized their plans for a meeting, but there have been discussions, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The Rams have reached out to Lions free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley but no visit has been scheduled yet, according to Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). Earlier today, we learned that the Lions will not be re-signing Fairley.
  • Giants free agent linebacker Jacquian Williams (on Twitter) says that his agent recently spoke with the Rams. Earlier this week, Williams told his Twitter followers that he has interest from five teams in total.

NFC Rumors: Iupati, Weatherspoon, Hill, Blalock

Mike Iupati has been a staple of the 49ers’ offensive line for his entire career, imposing his will on defensive linemen and linebackers in the running game, but his time with the team is likely coming to an end, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). The Raiders, Jets, and Bills seem to be the front runners for Iupati if he does not return to San Francisco.

Here are some more rumors from some NFC teams:

  • The Falcons are preparing to lose linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, as the Cardinals are expected to offer him a two-year contract somewhere between $3MM and $4MM annually, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN. He writes that the Falcons were close to a deal on Friday but talks fell apart.
  • The Vikings and quarterback Shaun Hill have mutual interest, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN (via Twitter). There are other teams in the mix as well, but Hill is believed to have serious interest in joining the Vikings.
  • Two of the other teams that have expressed interest in Hill are the Rams and Buccaneers, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter).
  • The Rams have also shown interest in guard Justin Blalock, writes Thomas (via Twitter).
  • Linebacker David Hawthorne could be a possible cap casualty for the Saints, writes Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (via Twitter).

Falcons Cut Justin Blalock

Longtime Falcons offensive lineman Justin Blalock won’t be back with the team for the 2015 season — at least not on his current contract. The club has parted ways with Blalock, releasing him with two years left on his deal, Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com confirmed today (via Twitter).

The decision to cut Blalock is a little surprising, since the 31-year-old has been a mainstay at the left guard spot in Atlanta since entering the league in 2007, having started all 125 games he has played during his career with the Falcons. Additionally, the former second-round pick continues to be an above-average guard, according to Pro Football Focus — Blalock has received positive grades from the site for each of the last five seasons (subscription required).

Still, Blalock was on track to have the third-highest cap number on the Falcons’ roster, and that $7.91MM figure would also have placed him among the highest-paid guards in the NFL. The veteran will turn 32 later this year, and may not have been an ideal fit for the new coaches in Atlanta, who have decided to go in a different direction — likely a younger, cheaper direction.

Blalock will continue to count against the Falcons’ cap for $4.12MM in dead money for 2015, creating $3.79MM in cap savings. As a vested veteran, he also becomes a free agent immediately, without clearing waivers, and I expect he’ll draw some interest on the open market from teams looking for a short-term or stopgap solution on the interior offensive line.

The Falcons also cut wide receiver Harry Douglas today and running back Steven Jackson yesterday.