Falcons offensive linemen Chris Chester and Carter Bykowski announced their retirements Thursday.
Chester, who started 35 games for the Falcons over the past two seasons at right guard, told ESPN.com that he planned to retire. Bykowski was signed Feb. 8 and never played for the team.
Chester, 34, played 11 years in the NFL after being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Oklahoma by the Baltimore Ravens.
He played with the Ravens for five seasons (2006-10), Washington for four seasons (2011-14) before joining the Falcons.
“He was a really good asset for us, of course,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “He helped solidify that (interior line) with (center) Alex Mack and (left guard) Andy Levitre.”
It was no surprise that Chester decided to retire.
The Falcons tried to replace Chester before last season, but lost a bidding war with Tampa Bay for free agent J.R. Sweezy. After missing on Sweezy, the Falcons re-signed Chester, who earned the starting position in training camp.
The Falcons recently signed guard Hugh Thornton. Ben Garland, Wes Schweitzer and Thornton will compete for the vacant spot. The team is expected to pick an interior offensive lineman in the NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he believes that Garland and Schweitzer are potential NFL starters.
“They’ll battle for sure at the guard spot and see where it goes,” Quinn said. “Both of them are unique. Both of them in the run game are really rock solid. Pass protection is something where you have to get in the fire. You have to go through it and do it.
“In practice they’ve shown real improvement. They are shining examples of our Plan D (development) program.”
Bykowski, a tackle, was drafted out of Iowa State in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco. He also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings.