The Falcons are facing a lot of decisions this off-season and that starts with their 14 unrestricted free agents. We will go through them one by one and decide whether or not the Falcons should re-sign them. A lot of times it's not as easy as it looks as some decisions have more than just roster spot implications. We also have to think about the salary cap as it is expected to increase by just $200,000 this season.
One question presented by this offseason is whether Sam Baker should be kept by the Atlanta Falcons. Taking the opposite career path as Jake Long, Baker struggled early in his career with injuries and ineffectiveness only to play his best football during 2012.
Baker has long been a weak spot for the Falcons and frequently blamed for our offensive inconsistencies. In 2011, Baker was injured and finally benched in favor or journeyman tackle Will Svitek. Thomas Dimitroff then used Atlanta's second pick on big bodied tackle Lamar Holmes.
It seemed a safe bet that Baker was going to be cut going into 2012. Instead he stayed healthy and played the entire season. Comparatively good for Baker but no one will confuse him with an elite pass protector.
Price may be the deciding factor with Baker. It is hard to imagine he thinks he should be paid like a top tackle and should appreciate the patience Smitty has had with him. Very likely is Baker may see what other teams are willing to pay him and return to Atlanta for a team friendly deal. In fact, there are multiple left tackles expected to become free agents this offseason with Pro Football Focus rating Sam Baker seventh and I struggle arguing he should be much higher.
Verdict: The Falcons will resign Baker to a low-risk deal with limited guaranteed money. Baker is not in a position to drive a hard bargain with so many tackles available and Lamar Houston waiting in the wings. Baker has a chance to improve his play and show he can stay healthy in hopes of signing a bigger deal down the road, similar to Laron Landry's low-risk deal with the Jets. Anything more than that would spell the end of Baker's time in Atlanta.
Free Agent Decisions: