Falcons Needs: Offensive Tackle
The big question here is going to revolve around Sam Baker and whether or not the free agent left tackle will be back in Atlanta in 2013.
Baker had a solid 2012 season, good enough to merit the team bringing him back. But it will likely only come at the right price. The team drafted Lamar Holmes in the third round of last year’s draft for a reason, mainly as insurance in case Baker struggled in 2012. Will Svitek is also a free agent and coming off his triceps injury won’t command large dollars on the open market. If Baker’s camp wants too much money, then the Falcons will have no problems turning to either Holmes and/or Svitek at the position.
But it’s probably not going to come to that. The Falcons brass showed a lot of loyalty and faith in Baker when many others did not (i.e. most of the fan base including myself), and it’s likely he’ll be amenable to whatever terms the Falcons come to. Atlanta won’t lowball him by any means, but the market could possibly dictate him making quite a bit of money if he shops himself around similar to Kevin Shaffer when he left Atlanta in 2006. While there are a number of high profile free agents that could hit the market such as Jake Long, Branden Albert, and Ryan Clady, most if not all of those guys will likely receive the franchise tag. That could potentially leave Baker among the better candidates of a diminished group of free agents, thus driving up his price tag.
Svitek won’t be a slam dunk to return as he could rejoin former Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau in St. Louis, potentially earning an opportunity to start which is something he won’t get in Atlanta if Baker is re-signed. But at the end of the day, the Falcons will likely re-sign one of the pair of free agents.
If not, then Holmes becomes the likeliest candidate to open 2013 as the team’s starting left tackle. And more than likely the team will look for an insurance policy via free agency that can add depth and compete there. Tyson Clabo is locked in at right tackle, and Mike Johnson represents a capable reserve behind him, but is probably a more natural guard than tackle. That’s not the type of guy you want starting sixteen games at left tackle.
It’s doubtful the Falcons seek draft options come April due to the presence of Holmes. It would be possible early if a good tackle prospect were to fall in Round 1, but that rarely happens. They could add a backup later in the draft, but that would likely only happen if Baker walks and the team wants to move Johnson back to guard.