The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter sits down with CineSport’s Noah Coslov to react to the Falcons releasing Justin Blalock, Harry Douglas & Steven Jackson & to identify their targets in free agency.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, a once promising prospect was released by the Falcons on Friday.
Massaquoi, who played at Troy and Central Gwinnett High School, was a selected by the Falcons in the fifth round (164th overall) of the 2012 NFL draft.
He played in 39 games with seven starts and had 60 tackles (42 solo), six sacks, and two passes defensed.
(UPDATED 1:58 P.M.)
FLOWERY BRANCH –Long-time starting left guard Justin Blalock was released by the Falcons on Friday.
Blalock, 6-foot-4, 326 pounds, was selected by the Falcons in the second-round (39th overall) of the 2007 NFL draft out of Texas. He started all 125 games in which he played, including 102 consecutive games between 2007 and 2014. Blalock started 15 games in 2014.
Blalock did not test well in the 20-yard shuttle and three-cone agility drills at the 2007 combine. Blalock, 31, also sat out with a back issue last season after previously never missing a game because of injury.
The staff concluded that he doesn’t fit the new blocking scheme. Also, Blalock, who had two years left on his contract, was due a base salary of $4.75 million next season and had a cap figure of $7.91 million (third highest on the team). The team will take a significant cap hit for his release because he received an $11 million signing bonus in 2011 that was prorated over the life of the contract.
“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.”
The system was popularized in the 1990s by the Broncos with assistant coach Alex Gibbs and head coach Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. Gibbs later coached with the Falcons under Jim L. Mora.
“You need to be able to run,” Shanahan said. “It’s not necessarily always the 40. You need quickness. I had some bigger guys in Cleveland that I did in Washington and there were some pluses to it and some minuses. Everyone wants a huge player who can run faster than everyone else. Until they allow me to spend top pick on linemen five years in a row that’s not going to happen. You have to find other ways to get by.”
(Harry Douglas Post from earlier)
FLOWERY BRANCH — Wide receiver Harry Douglas, who was set to make $3.5 million in the final year of the four-year contract he signed with the Falcons in 2012, was released by the team this morning, according to his agent Todd France.
Douglas talked to Falcons coach Dan Quinn and was told of his release.
“This happens around the league at this time of the year,” France said.
Douglas received the news in a phone call from Quinn, the Falcons’ new head coach.
“He just told me that it was a hard decision and that he respects how I approached the game,” Douglas said on the “Rick and Jamie show” on 92.9The Game. “I told him that I appreciate everything and that it wasn’t nothing personal. I told him that ‘I’ll see you soon.'”
Douglas said the team did not discuss restructuring his contract. He speculated that he may no longer be a scheme fit in the outside-zone blocking systems that new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is installing.
Douglas played in 12 games for the Falcons last season and finished the year with 51 catches for 556 yards and two touchdowns. He had 85 catches for 1,067 yards in 2013 as he stepped into a larger role with Julio Jones out of the lineup.
France is anticipating a hearty market for Douglas’ services in free agency.
Douglas, in another salary dump move before the start of free agency, was cut a day after the Falcons released veteran running back Steven Jackson.
The team saved $3.75 million against the salary cap with the Jackson move. His cap number was slated to be $4.9 million and the dead money against the cap is his
prorated signing bonus of $1.1 million.
With Jackson and Douglas gone, that’s $7.25 million off next season’s payroll.
Jackson, 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, formerly played with the St. Louis Rams. He voided his contract in order to become a free agent and signed a three-year deal worth $12 million with the Falcons on March 13, 2013. A total of $4 million of the contract was guaranteed.
Douglas, who was in Orlando, was not distraught over the move.
“I’m doing good,” Douglas said. “I understand. One thing I can say is that I thank the Falcons organization for the seven years that I had there. They gave me the opportunity to play in the city where I grew up. I grew up a Falcons’ fan.
“I was the hometown kid. To be able to play in the town where I grew up for seven years was a blessing. I don’t have (any) hard feelings.”
Douglas, 30, was drafted in the third-round (84th overall) of the 2008 draft out of Louisville. In high school, he starred at Jonesboro High.
He played in 91 games for the Falcons and made 27 starts. He caught 258 passes for 3,131 yards and eight touchdowns.
“The hardest thing of it all is Roddy (White), (Eric) Weems, Matt (Ryan) all of them calling me,” Douglas said. “One thing that we said is that our relationship is never going to change. I’m down in Orlando right now to see my brother (Toney), but I’m going over to Devin (Hester’s) house. I’m going to see Devin and Weems said he’s coming by, so I’m going to be kicking it with Weems. The relationships will never go to waste. We’re brothers from another mother for life.”
Douglas plans to keep playing.
“All I can say is God has a plan and if he’s on my side, nobody can be against me,” Douglas said. “I’m an emotional guy, but with this situation, am I sad that I’m leaving Atlanta? Of course I am because I’m from here. This is the only team that I played for, but I understand this is a business move. I don’t have any hard feelings toward the Falcons organization.”
Douglas sounded sincere about not harboring any ill will toward the organization.
“When a lot of people told me that I couldn’t make it to the NFL and that I was too small, the Falcons drafted me and gave me the opportunity to play in the NFL,” Douglas said. “So, I’m thankful.”
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