Sam Baker is as enigmatic as they come in the NFL. One minute he run blocks like a man beast, and then without warning, he regresses like Dave on a Natty Light bender. We joke about his T-Rex arms, even if he doesn't have them, and that's always entertaining. But consistent, dependable protection of Matt Ryan's blindside isn't something I like to joke about.
For reasons I definitely understand, Baker has been a constant source of frustration for Falcons fans. I'm assuming most of you were done with him before the 2012 season even started. Heck, even I hated that he was perpetually injured, unable to live up to his potential or, at the very least, play like he did during his rookie campaign. But then 2012 happened. Baker's comeback was dramatic, and he likely saved his career.
Meanwhile, we have a difficult decision to make. And by "we" I mean The Comrade. Will Svitek is also a free agent. Svitek played admirably during Baker's absence in 2011, plus Lamar Holmes is still waiting in the wings. Let's be honest about Holmes though; he isn't ready to take over. But maybe Svitek could. He'd likely be the cheaper option, but not by much. I don't expect Baker to kick butt and take names in free agency. Sure, he played pretty well in 2012, but so did a lot of free agent tackles. In other words, he has competition. I'm confident we can bring him back at a reasonable price, a price that won't far exceed what Svitek's market value.
To be frank, I'm not sure sure if I'd prefer Svitek or Baker. I know we need a long-term solution at right guard not named Garrett Reynolds, so saving money anywhere we can has to be a priority. That said, it's possible we bring back both Svitek and Baker. We came into 2012 with both men on the roster, giving us depth and viable options in the jumbo package. It will be interesting to see how The Comrade handles free agency. Undoubtedly there will be hard decisions, and whether to retain Baker will be one of them.