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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Could Sam Baker's future be at right tackle?

By Vaughn McClure

Although the Atlanta Falcons still believe in Sam Baker, there is no guarantee he will remain at left tackle moving forward.

Baker
General manager Thomas Dimitroff didn’t come out and say Baker would be moved, but he did imply the Falcons have the option of switching the former first-round pick to right tackle, if needed.

"I think having a tackle that you can bring in who is versatile enough to play both left and right is very important for the National Football League in today’s game," Dimitroff said when asked if the team might consider moving Baker, depending on the health of his surgically repaired knee.

In the same breath, Dimitroff seemed optimistic about Baker being the left tackle he was a few seasons ago, despite coming off season-ending knee surgery. Baker has played left tackle since his rookie season. He became a left tackle in college at USC after starting his college career as a guard.

"We’re confident that Sam is going to be ready to go," Dimitroff said. "And we expect him to return to the form that he was in 2012."

Baker was hampered by a left knee issue throughout last season. He had platelet rich plasma treatment (PRP) with his knee, apparently specific to his patellar tendon. But his knee didn’t respond well enough to keep him from avoiding surgery.

Although Baker, who will count $6.05 million against the cap in 2014, is expected to be back healthy again, the Falcons still have to plan ahead. Drafting a player such as Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews could be a part of the equation if the team prioritizes improving protection and run blocking over getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Falcons won’t target a high-caliber offensive tackle in free agency, although they are expected to pursue either a guard or center on the open market.

Both Matthews and Robinson expressed a willingness to play either side of the offensive line as rookies when they were interviewed at the NFL combine.