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Falcons release Sam Baker

It's the end of a tumultuous seven years in Atlanta for the veteran tackle.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have cut ties with former first round pick Sam Baker, ending a roller coaster career that began in 2008.

Baker was drafted to be the blindside protector for Matt Ryan in 2008, and while he had stretches where he was very capable in that role, there's no mystery here. Baker had essentially missed two straight seasons with injury, he hadn't gotten back on practice field as of last week's OTAs and his large contract meant he was taking up a lot of cap space. With Jake Matthews the presumed starter at left tackle and veteran tackles Ryan Schraeder, Lamar Holmes and Tyler Polumbus all available to duke it out at right tackle, Baker's place on the roster was tenuous at best. The Falcons apparently decided they could roll on with what they had.

It's a sad end for a player who was terrific in 2012 and at least decent at the start of his career. We all wanted to see Baker excel in Atlanta, particularly after he signed his large contract, but the injuries in 2013 and 2014 killed any chance of that happening. Given how he rallied in 2012 to play well during one of the best years in franchise history, that's especially crushing.

The Falcons are in a position to take the dead money hit—Spotrac has it at $9.2 million for this year, but they're not going to assume all of that right now—and this will undoubtedly lead to speculation about the team signing Evan Mathis to lock down left guard. I'm not sure we'll see that, but there will be a move in the offing to get the Falcons back up to 90 guys. This was, unfortunately, a pretty awful contract for Atlanta. Per out own FalconsM5, it looks like a $2.8 million cap hit this year, and upwards of $6 million in 2016.

We wish Baker well as he continues his career, and hell, we all wish it had worked out differently.