Sam Baker's health is a frequent punchline around here, but if healthy, he's clearly the team's best option at left tackle at the moment. It's good news, then, that he expects to be cleared this week, per Vaughn McClure at ESPN:
"I’m feeling good,’’ Baker said Monday night. "In a couple days, I should be cleared. I’ve been running, doing everything, and I should get fully cleared in a couple days. It’s great, especially because we’re getting ready with the offseason stuff, to be able to get out with the offense and to be able to go back to doing plays and stuff like that.’’
The Falcons will welcome Baker back with open arms for many reasons. If he's healthy and the Falcons don't draft a tackle in the first round, chances are very good he starts at left tackle for at least one more season. If the team does take a tackle at #6—or move up a bit to get one—they'll likely toy with the idea of moving Baker to right tackle. Thomas Dimitroff, as always, chooses to talk about options:
"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," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently when asked if the team might consider moving Baker. "We’re confident that Sam is going to be ready to go. And we expect him to return to the form that he was in 2012.’’
My guess? The Falcons will have Baker at left tackle in 2014, because they won't get a tackle who is ready to take over the job on day one. This is contingent on the Falcons moving up for another player, but I'm getting the strong sense that's a possibility. If the team winds up with Jake Matthews, though, all bets are definitely off, because Baker has mixed ineffective seasons with injury-marred seasons throughout his career. We'll just have to hope this is his year.
How do you think Baker will fare in 2014?