I am not sure if there is a more consistently frustrating situation than knowing Sam Baker continues to exist on the Atlanta Falcons roster. Why do such good things continue to happen to such a terrible player? It is enough to cause one to have an existential breakdown.
For what he lacks in basic blocking skills, he makes up for with elite beard skills.
Who to Cut. Baker lucked out in 2008, where a run on tackles scared Dimitroff into trading up into the bottom of the 1st round and taking the first blocker he could think of. Since that time, Baker has been awarded the starting spot despite terrible play and constant injuries.
The front office has done nothing to add depth to the position, which still led to Baker losing his spot last year to low level free agent Will Svitek. Back in January, Jeff Schultz of the AJC named Baker as a prime candidate to involuntarily test the market. Schultz says cutting Baker is an “easy call” and anyone who wants a quality offense would agree. AJC readers agreed, with 93% voting to release the beard.
Despite poor play and taking up $3.7 million in cap space, Dimitroff has held tightly to the big, bearded bust Baker. That is pretty high for a guy who ended the season on the bench. Ovie Mughelli takes up the same cap space, at $3.7 million, which is ridiculous for a fullback coming off of an injury.
Speaking of projected cuts, Michael Turner is expected to have a reduced role with an expanded $5 million salary. That should make him prime to be cut (or take a pay cut), as he has just turned 30 and managed over 3.5 YPC twice in the last seven Falcons games last year.
Why Are They Still Here. Thomas Dimitroff appears to be playing conservative this offseason, re-signing only players on the cheap, such as Harry Douglas and Thomas DeCoud, while letting the higher priced Curtis Lofton leave.
The thinking was Atlanta would cut some underperforming and expensive veterans to free up space for some other free agents. That has yet to happen. However, this makes sense if we look at the draft. The Falcons are short their 1st and 4th round pick, suggesting they can hope to get two, at most three starters. With the limited picks, Dimitroff will have to allow some value picks to fall to him at 2.23 and 3.23.
Targeting a specific player or two is just not manageable. I fully believe Dimitroff is not sure what player or what position will be filled in these spots. More likely, the best impact would be to draft the best player available (minus quarterback) throughout most of the draft, and then cut the corresponding high priced veteran.
For example, say Dimitroff wants Washington running back Chris Polk at 2.23, but he is taken before we draft and no other running back of value comes along until the 5th round. Cutting Michael Turner before that time would push up the need, either forcing Dimitroff to overdraft a running back or be stuck without a Turner replacement.
Keeping Baker, Turner and Ovie on the roster allows the Falcons to draft for value, and if the value pick plays any of their positions, they will likely be cut at that point. Assuming Atlanta had a full set of draft picks, some or all of these players may already have a new team, because there would be many other picks available to select or trade with to fill their roster spots.