Baker’s Falcons career ends in a whisper

Sam Baker's Falcons career was beset by injuries - this the final one, a torn patella tendon in the 2014 preseason. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Sam Baker’s Falcons career was beset by injuries – this the final one, a torn patella tendon in the 2014 preseason. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

It was 2012, just two seasons ago, when Sam Baker manned the Falcons line for all 16 games of the regular season, and then on to the postseason, all the way to the NFC Championship game.

Some thought he finally was ready to anchor the left side of the Falcons line after a career fraught with inconsistency and injury. The Falcons obviously did. They gave him a new (non-guaranteed) 6-year, $41 million contract.

The fact is, when Baker was right, the Falcons were good. In both seasons he played all 16 games (2010 and ’12), the Falcons won 13 of them.

On Monday, in a 54-word statement, the Falcons announced they had released Baker.

Just like that – poof – a player who was fitted for the role of cornerstone lineman was history. No recounting of glories past. No best wishes. Just a terse statement, containing all the sentiment of an eviction notice.

Don’t let the suddenness and brevity of Baker’s dismissal understate the impact of his Falcons career. He represents a fail that continues to be felt to this day as the team struggles to make sense of its offensive line.

Think how differently this offense might have evolved had Baker been as good as advertised when he arrived here in 2008 from Southern Cal, where he was a three-time All American and road grader for the likes of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinhart. As he dealt with a string of injuries (most crippling were a series of back troubles compounded by patella tendon tears in 2013 and ’14), his absence sent ripples of instability throughout the line.

By last season, Baker’s only mention was as a member of Grantland’s All-Bad Contracts Team.

First the Falcons took Matt Ryan in the 2008 draft. Then they traded up to take a player who was going to be his long-time bodyguard – Baker.

Yet, here we are in the summer of 2015 and the search for a stout body or two capable of keeping Ryan vertical continues with great urgency.

Reader Comments 0

35 comments
TreeRollins
TreeRollins

He was actually a better draft pick then most of Dimitroff's picks like Peria Jerry. At least he played a little bit. That's why we're one of the worst teams in the league. Yet, King Arthur wanted his loyal servant Dimitroff back for another losing season with the NFL's weakest roster. Not my opinion, but the opinion of the experts!

58Supersports
58Supersports

Guard Justin Blalock to retire...were is ajc on this news?

Mutley
Mutley

It's just the LOSERVILLE curse and nothing can be done. LeBron is eyeball to eyeball with the Cleveland curse and the curse has the advantage.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Mutley

Only ATL's pro teams and their fans suffer from the true Curse of Losersville.

There's plenty that could be done about it, but only once has an ATL pro team ('95 Braves) been up to the task.

Drexel-Gal
Drexel-Gal

MSNBC blames George W. Bush for the draft pick and the injuries.

gfw
gfw

Even when he was healthy he was not a dominating LT.  He always had slow feet, and so was susceptible to quicker DEs running right around him...and he didn't have the arm-length to help himself on those occasions.  The long-term contract was a typical Dimitroff folly.

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

He was a reach when he was drafted because he was injured a great deal at Southern Cal.  A fact you seem to have forgotten to mention.  Another Dimitroff fail.  Explain to me why Dimitroff still has a job.  

Dman
Dman

Because TD is the best GM we've ever had.

PantherDawg
PantherDawg

Matt will be on his back again this year. We better start looking for a young up and comer for QB. And give the farm away for pass rushers and O-Line folks. Probably use Rodney and Julio as bait.


And yes I like Quinn cutting the dead weight. Let's move on!

SomewherenSGa
SomewherenSGa

Was he still playing for Atlanta? Or should I say was he still in Atlanta?

kman81
kman81

The only reason that Baker was drafted was because his dad was the commissioner of the arena league at the time and Blank owned the Georgia Force.  He drafted him as a favor for his dad.

DogTheMan
DogTheMan

But Dimitroff is still here?? Why??

ShadowRAM
ShadowRAM

Do you think the GM picked players the coach did not want? The Falconhaulic article, what went wrong with Mike Smith, gives some good insight that after 2012. Smith became disconnected from the team and stopped developing rookies and relied on veterans/free agents.

kbb3
kbb3

Another brilliant pick by our resident genius GM

We traded up to get a guy who was injured throughout college

Then he compounds his mistake by offering a huge extension for managing to be mediocre and stand upright for one season out of 5

BLowE12
BLowE12

I would more say Whimper than Whisper..

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

My confidence in Dan Quinn just went up.  Baker was a certified basket case when he was healthy, and injured himself being a matador.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

@CuriousPrime  I am excited about Dan Quinn being the coach. I hope 10 games into the season I still am.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

I think he falls in line with the Uggla and BJ situations with the Braves, but without a way to unload the salary.

POV1948
POV1948

Baker ranks with DE Jamal Anderson as biggest Falcon draft busts since Andre Bruce was taken with #1 overall pick and, as he had at Auburn, showed up when he felt like it.  Baker's back trouble dated back to college, seems like it would have been a red flag for an OL.  

POV1948
POV1948

@RangeRover @POV1948 But the fact is he was drafted in the first round, which is why I say it's a bust on par with Anderson.  

JSSN
JSSN

@POV1948

You're trying to rationalize with a former Dimitroff apologist!

POV1948
POV1948

@JSSN @POV1948 On that point, signing Baker to the fat contract after 2012 was a bigger goof than drafting him.  

RangeRover
RangeRover

@POV1948

Not even close!

Baker was overpaid and often underperformed but mostly his issue was staying healthy.  Jamal Anderson was never good for one single game...that's the definition of the word "bust."

Baker is similar to that of Weatherspoon...just a below average athlete that was rated way too high.  Had Baker been drafted in the 3rd round where he should have we would be thinking far less about this.

khd713
khd713

@GSU-Panther-Russ It's like so many other Atlanta sports busts – we are paying him to go away. And he'll continue to be a huge hit on the salary cap for the next several years.

maryjga
maryjga

Sam Baker S U C K E D.   Dude nearly got Matt Ryan killed half the time.   Bye!

Shovlen Bouchett
Shovlen Bouchett

What the heck? I'm away for a year and Hummer looks like Santa.