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Three years later, with free agency looming, the Sam Baker contract still haunts the Atlanta Falcons

Fact: Sam Baker's left knee hates puppies

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was March 13, 2013. A new pope was selected. Dave Chappelle reemerged following his self-imposed exile. And Thomas Dimitroff handed Samuel David Baker a contract that would haunt this franchise for years to come.

The Atlanta Falcons will enter free agency with only $21.5 million in cap space. That's not bad, but it's not great. (They will have the 14th most cap space in the NFL.) But for dead money, they'd have the 8th most cap space. (They will have in excess of $15 million in dead money; only the New Orleans Saints will have more dead money: $22.3 million.) Sam Baker represents $6.4 million of that total. That's a lot of dead money. In fact, the team with the third most dead money, the Indianapolis Colts, will have $6.39 million.

So where was Dimitroff's head at? On that fateful day almost three years ago, Baker signed a 6 year, $41.1 million contract. It was incredibly backloaded, but it also promised him $18.25 million in guaranteed money. Sure, there were the injury issues. Baker struggled to stay healthy his entire career. That said, he played in all 16 regular season games in 2012. And to be fair, no one knew he'd blow out his knee 4 games into the 2013 season. What's more, left tackles aren't cheap. Dimitroff had to know it was risky, but market value is market value.

Fast forward three years, the Falcons aren't without options in free agency. Even so, an additional $6.4 million would be pretty useful.