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Falcons release Sam Baker; Justin Blalock retires

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The Atlanta Falcons are moving on from one their former first-round picks, while another longtime lineman for the team is calling it quits.

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The Falcons announced Monday that they have released tackle Sam Baker, who started 61 games in six seasons with the team after being selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Baker, 30, missed all of 2014 with a torn patellar tendon and has played in just four games the past two seasons due to knee issues. He had been a candidate to move inside and compete for the team's left guard job this summer.

Baker was to compete for the starting spot that opened up when the Falcons parted ways with Justin Blalock in February. Rapoport reported Monday that Blalock is planning to retire, according to a source who has spoken to him. Blalock had reportedly drawn interest from the Rams, Lions and Titans before making his decision.

"I'd like to sincerely thank the Atlanta Falcons, all my teammates and especially the fans," Blalock wrote on Twitter. "I've had an unbelievable eight years and only wish I could have helped bring a championship to the ATL."

Blalock, 31, started 125 games for the Falcons after being selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He finished 26th out of 78 qualified guards in Pro Football Focus' ratings last season. Blalock can still play -- but he's decided now is the time to move on.

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