Offensive lineman Garland will not return to Falcons

Offensive lineman Ben Garland, who played in 14 games and made four starts at right guard last season, will not return to the Falcons in 2019, according to a person familiar with his status.

Garland played in 16 games and made three starts in 2017.

Garland broke into the league as a defensive lineman. In 2016, he played mostly on the defensive line in short-yardage situations and played one defensive snap and eight special teams snaps in Super Bowl LI.

Garland signed a $2.9 million second-round restricted tender last season. He made $690,000 in 2017.

Overall, Garland has played in 54 games and has made seven starts.

The Falcons have made re-vamping the offensive line their No. 1 offseason priority. Garland was one of six players to start at one of the guard positions last season after injuries knocked out opening-day starters Andy Levitre (torn pectoral muscle) and Brandon Fusco (broken ankle).

Garland was the Falcons’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2017.

He was awarded the NFL's Salute to Service Award Jan. 30 before the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

He was recognized by the NFL and USAA for his exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.

“I am honored to win the award, but, honestly, I am just honored to be part of an organization that puts military first from the top down, from (owner) Arthur Blank to our head coach (Dan Quinn),” Garland said on Jan. 30. “They do so much for our military and I am proud to be with an organization that is the spear in the NFL of showing how to do it right and how to truly give back and say thank you to the military members that absolutely deserve it.”

USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Garland’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the Garland’s military charity of choice.

“From his time at the Air Force Academy and continuing throughout his NFL playing career, Ben Garland has embodied and demonstrated the understanding and appreciation for the service and sacrifice of the U.S. military and their families for which this award stands,” said retired Vice Adm. John Bird, USAA senior vice president of military affairs. “In the true spirit of the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA, we salute Ben for his tireless effort to support our military, veterans, and their families, as well as his own service to our country as a member of the Colorado Air National Guard.”

In 2018, Garland traveled on two USO tours, the first to Italy and Germany and the second to Iraq and Kuwait.

Garland is involved with helping veterans make the adjustment after their service and in helping raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder. Last year, he participated in the Armed Forces Mission’s Georgia LOSS Walk. He walked alongside veterans, service members and their families in honor of “Turning the Tide on Veteran Suicide.”

As a current member of the Colorado Air National Guard, he also supported his fellow active duty service members. He donated game tickets each week to them; visited the Air Force Academy at least once a year to speak to the current students; worked with Georgia Tech ROTC to inspire young officers; and met with local young officers to mentor them.