Atlanta Falcons Quietly Winning in Free Agency
The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And while the Atlanta Falcons certainly aren’t perfect, they’ve done an excellent job during this off-season and so far during free agency in not tinkering with the things that are working. Having re-signed RB Antone Smith, SS William Moore, and getting a return commitment from TE Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons turned their sights to keeping more of their own.
Atlanta has now agreed to a six-year contract with LT Sam Baker, who saw something of a renaissance in 2012.
Baker underwent a tough few seasons at the start of his NFL career–battling injuries and sub-par performance more than likely attributed to them–after originally being selected by the Falcons in the first round (21st overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. In 2012, he stepped up and was QB Matt Ryan‘s top protector as Ryan went on to set franchise records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns.
The Southern California product also went the entire 2012 season without a holding or false start penalty (according to Stats LLC), and only allowed 3.5 sacks on Ryan, even though he faced some of the toughest pass rushers in the NFL.
Having stability at the left tackle position is an obvious key for Atlanta’s passing attack, as the more comfortable Ryan feels in the pocket the more confident he’ll be. Baker has stepped up to be one of the better left tackles in the league, so locking him down for six years will make him one of the anchors of an improving offensive line.
There were some erroneous reports that the Falcons had re-signed cornerback Brent Grimes to a one-year deal, but all such reports have now been recanted, and Grimes still remains a free agent. The Falcons will more than likely find a way to keep Grimes, once thought to be the cornerstone of the Falcons defensive secondary, to plug the hole left by the release of Dunta Robinson.
While some fans may want to see the Falcons go out and grab one of the headline free agents, history has shown that the teams who make the big signings rarely go on to win it all, so taking care of their own players is probably the best strategy for the team to employ.