According to a report from ESPN’s NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas, the Atlanta Falcons remain ‘committed’ to fifth year Left Tackle/offensive lineman Sam Baker.
As a fan of the Falcons, this is severely disappointing and is not something that we want to hear. Sam Baker was so horrible in pass protection early in 2011 that the Falcons may as well have played with only 4 offensive linemen. Things improved significantly when the Falcons decided to start Will Svitek at LT, but that position was still not performing at an elite level. All indications after Baker failed to perform at a positional change at Right Guard, were that he would be released after the season, and free up cap space for the Falcons to bring in another veteran offensive lineman in free-agency.
Needless to say, the release of Baker never happened. After the first couple days of free-agency passed and Baker had not yet been released, everyone thought that perhaps the announcement would soon come, followed quickly by a free-agency signing. Had his release come early, it would appear the Falcons would be able to sign someone else to play LT.
However, at this time I believe that Baker will not be released. He has one year left on his contract, and if his release has not happened yet to get another offensive lineman into the mix, its just not going to happen this year.
So that means two things. The first is that the Falcons will hope Baker will be healthy next season. When healthy, Baker is average. When hurt, like he was last year, he is miserable. If he gets healthy, he can prevent Ryan getting killed, but not from getting hurt. Will Svitek will still have a chance at beating out Baker for the starting LT position in training camp, and personally I hope that he wins it.
Secondly, if signifies the end of big signings for the Falcons in 2012. Sure, there may be a couple more signings of minor-level players, but I don’t think we will significant influx of talent aside from those added thorough the draft. The Falcons have less than $2M in cap space after the signing of Todd McClure, and that will not be enough to sign the likes of Marcus McNeill or Demetrius Bell. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it happening.
I am disappointed in Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff. I’m sure it must be different to know the man on a personal level, work with him, learn with him, study with him, and during training camp live with him. Maybe he’s a great human being and Smith and Dimitroff are fond of him. I don’t know. One thing I do know is that the game of football is about winning ballgames, and is a cutthroat business based on winning those games. I don’t think the Falcons will have a good chance of winning many games is Ryan is constantly getting sacked, or worse, if he gets injured. And if he does, you probably won’t have to look further than Baker for a player on whom to place the blame.