USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons could explore the free agent market if they can't re-sign Sam Baker.
The Falcons are exceedingly likely to bring back Sam Baker as their left tackle. He should be relatively affordable, as left tackles go, and he's familiar with the system the team has in place. As long as they don't sign him to an exorbitant deal or too many years, it will be good business to bring back Baker.
That doesn't mean it's a lock. This is a strong market for free agent tackles, and the Falcons will at least explore other options. I wanted to take a quick look at some of the best tackles available.
William Beatty, New York Giants
Beatty is 28 years old. He battled back issues, like Sam Baker. But he was also very effective for the Giants in 2012, and graded out as No. 12 in Pro Football Focus's rankings. If the Falcons were going to make a run at a different offensive tackle to hold down Ryan's blind side, Beatty might be my first choice thanks to his combination of talent and likely contract demands.
You know, the guy picked two spots ahead of Matt Ryan back in 2008.
He's going to be vastly overpaid based on his name and elite talent when totally healthy, but Long's play has actually slipped the last couple of years. Whether that's a fluke or not, the team that signs Long is going to be gambling that he can return to the truly elite form he showed early in his career. It's a gamble worth taking, but perhaps not at the price he'll command.
Still, there would be a certain poetry to bringing Long to Atlanta, wouldn't there?
Clady's an interesting case. A 16 game starter at right tackle early in his career and a 16 game starter at left tackle now, he's extremely durable. He's a Pro Bowler. He's well-thought of by the advance stat community. And he's just 26 years old.
What makes him interesting, then, is that he's going to command a massive contract. Clady is quite talented, but he's likely to get even more than Long on the open market. The Falcons don't really have the cap space, so this would seem to be out.
None of these guys are overly likely to sign with the Falcons, but it can't hurt to look around. What tackle would you prefer?