Tuesday, November 26, 2013
No plans to move Baker from left tackle, yet
By Vaughn McClure
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Being totally out of playoff contention should have the Atlanta Falcons thinking ahead to next season.
Even if such is the case, head coach Mike Smith wouldn't reveal his thoughts to the media.
Specifically, Smith was asked Monday about any consideration of moving left tackle Sam Baker to right tackle next season. Baker underwent season-ending knee surgery, performed by celebrated orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.
"No, that hasn't been a discussion point,'' Smith said of moving Baker. "Sam had the procedure done. There will be no long-term effects. We know that he's recovering now and going through the recuperation process and the rehabilitation. So, he should be ready to go. It's not long term. He'll be ready to go when we start our offseason program in April.''
It doesn't necessarily mean Baker will remain at left tackle. The offensive line is one of the many issues the Falcons are sure to tackle this offseason, particularly after quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a season-high five times in last week's 17-13 loss to the Saints. Baker struggled in his four starts before being placed on injured reserve on Nov. 12.
Of course, the Falcons made a financial commitment to Baker when he signed a six-year deal worth $41.1 million -- including a $10 million signing bonus -- back in March. His base salary was $1 million last season and jumps to $3.25 million next season.
All that being said, it still doesn't mean Baker is assured to be the team's left tackle next season. It remains unclear how he'll perform coming off the injury. Not to mention the team continues to get a long look at Lamar Holmes at left tackle, and the organization firmly believes Holmes had Pro Bowl potential despite his own struggles this season.
And since the 2-9 Falcons appear destined to land a top-5 draft pick, they might have to seriously consider selecting Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews if they are not in position to draft South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Any draft talk is contingent on how the Falcons finish the season. Fans might hope for the worst over the last five games in order to assure a higher draft pick.
"I know that people have a different approach and a look to a season at different points in time, but I can assure you this: We're not concerned about our draft status,'' Smith said Monday. "We're concerned about winning the next game and putting a string together here at the end of the season.''