Falcons questions: Fixing five mistakes starts with Sam Baker

(Curtis Compton/AJC)

Thomas Dimitroff, Arthur Blank and Mike Smith face tough decisions. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(This is the second in a series of blogs on some Falcons’ high-profile veterans and their uncertain futures with the team.)

Last week in the opener of this cyber mini-series, I looked at the possibility of the Falcons parting ways with Michael Turner, who despite finishing third in the NFL in rushing this season was showing signs of wear and might not be worth the $5 million in salary he is due next season. It stirred a lot of debate and, honestly, I was surprised by how many folks wanted him traded or cut.

Today, I’m focusing on five mistakes (or generally perceived ones). Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t made a lot of them, but there are five high-profile ones (actually, four by Dimitroff and one by then-general manager Rich McKay). Dimitroff didn’t ask for my advice, but hey, I’m not charging or anything. This time, I’ll have a series of polls so you can weigh in with your votes on each player (I neglected to put up a poll on the Turner blog).

Since the Falcons’ No. 1 concern in my view is the offensive line, let’s start with  . . .

What to do with Sam Baker?

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What to do with Peria Jerry?

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Mistake No. 1: Tackle Sam Baker: In Dimitroff’s first draft in 2008, he traded two second-round picks (34th and 48th) and a fourth-rounder to Washington for the Redskins’ first-round pick (21st overall), third- and fifth-rounder. Baker was taken with the first pick. The thinking: He would be the left tackle to protect the blindside of the just-drafted quarterback, Matt Ryan. It’s

What to do with Dunta Robinson?

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What to do with Ray Edwards?

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hard to know how much of Baker’s problems have been because of back injuries but we know he hasn’t been good. He got beat out this season by Will Svitek. Baker has one year left on his contract at $2.576,250. With option bonuses, his cap hit next year actually would be $3.7 million. The Falcons can find a cheaper backup. Easy call: Cut him.

What to do with Ovie Mughelli?

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Mistake No. 2. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry: He was the Falcons’ first-round pick (24th overall) in 2009, getting a five-year, $10.35 million contract with $7.55 million guaranteed. He has two sacks in three seasons and, also partly because of injuries, he just hasn’t been good enough to make an impact and win a starting job. Jerry’s base salary next season is only $845,000, though he carries a cap hit of $1.95 million. Money’s really not the issue. It’s more like: How long can the Falcons wait? More than likely, they’ll see if they can do better in the offseason before making a decision. Tough call: Stall.

Mistake No. 3. Cornerback Dunta Robinson: He was signed in 2010 for six years, $57 million with $25.5 million guaranteed. As investments go, this would’ve been like if Arthur Blank expanded Home Depots to include a seafood buffet. Robinson never was known as a shut-down cornerback, but he certainly figured to be the best defensive back on the team and he hasn’t been (that’s Brent Grimes). He has a base salary of $6 million next season. I know. You think: Cut him! Not so fast. Of that $6 million, $5 million is guaranteed. Add signing bonus proration and these are your choices: $7.75 million to keep him, $$6.75 million to cut him. It’s not worth it. Painful call: Keep him.

Mistake No. 4. Defensive end Ray Edwards: He played better down the stretch but still wasn’t nearly the player the Falcons expected him to be or worth the five-year, $30 million contract. Edwards clearly was affected by his late-summer knee surgery, but to what degree? In many games he seemed to disappear. His alibi: He was doing what coaches asked him to do, which explains the low sack production (3½). If that’s true, we’ll see if things change under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. But like Robinson, Edwards isn’t going anywhere. The Falcons would take a $3.55 million hit just to cut him and $4.555 million if he plays. Besides, it’s too early to jump ship. Easy call: Keep him.

Mistake No. 5. Fullback Ovie Mughelli. Actually, it was then-general manager Rich McKay, at the urging of Bobby Petrino, who gave Mughelli a six-year, $18 million contract in 2007. Can he block? Yes. Did it hurt the Falcons when Mughelli was injured this season? Yes. But $3 million a year for a fullback who seldom runs or catches the ball is absurd. The cap hit will be minimal if he’s cut. The $3,733,335 hit if he plays is crazy. There are cheaper blocking backs out there. Easy call: Cut him.

There you go. The cyber-floor is yours, and the polls are up.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

324 comments Add your comment

King Peter

January 25th, 2012
4:13 pm

The Falcons are a mess,brought on by TDs trades and drafts,and FA signing.Bringing Ewards here was a mistake,he has kill’ed the kimistry of the Falcons,and has rubbed off on abe, and a lot of the other players.Thier is no fire or desire on this team.i believe that mike Smith has lost touch with his players,and that does not bid well for next season.Go Falcons.and clean house

mark

January 25th, 2012
4:15 pm

cut baker n jerry big big mistakes!!! i would like to keep ovie that guy block as hard as hell! so dont be cheap! plus we have the worst FA signs we r starting to look as the redskins here!

King Peter

January 25th, 2012
4:16 pm

Nobody on the falcons should be a keeper,out with the old,and bring the new!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

January 25th, 2012
4:21 pm

JS- tough call on Ovie. What says you?? Do you think if Ovie was healthy, would the Falcons have made those three crucial 4 & 1s this year??? My guess is at least 2 out of 3. Cut Sam & Peria for sure!!

BDGIBSON

January 25th, 2012
4:21 pm

Where is matt ryan on this list? we need a winner in atl and it starts at QB… a hurt peyton manning is better than a healthy matt ryan. lets make it happen

Cornell Sims

January 25th, 2012
4:23 pm

We can cut Sam Baker, Give Peria Jerry another year in hopes of a break out year under Mike Nolan. I defensive coordinator who seems to get the most out of his players, Keep Daunte Robinson. I think Daunte is a good cornerback he just wasn’t being used in the right way. They was not allowing him to play to his strengths. He is not a zone corner. He is a bump n run man to man cover corner. If Mike Nolan sticks to his words he will allow Daunte to play to his strengths, Keep Ray Edwards, I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt even though I didn’t want him as a free agent but again lets see how he does under Mike Nolan, Cut Ovei Mughili, to much money for a full back, I would rather resign snelling and have him play fullback. Atleast your getting versatility at the fullback position.

Bob

January 25th, 2012
4:25 pm

Sounds like Tommy Dimitroff is the Falcons version of Omar Minayata (sp?), formerly of the Mets. Both find it easy to spend/waste other folks money and get zilch in return. Maybe Tommy D needs to go…just saying.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 25th, 2012
4:26 pm

Ryan Leaf on being a bust:

“At least I didnt lose 3straight playoff games”

HA HA HA :)

ernisTbass

January 25th, 2012
4:32 pm

if the Knock on Ovie is that he doesn’t carry the ball or catch passes, er uh maybe it’s because he was never given the opportunity to do either. I feel like he has a much better shot at fourth and one than the Dancer, Ovie knows how to run over somebody other than a DB after he gets moving full speed

Loyal Falcon

January 25th, 2012
4:39 pm

I’m sick of the whole rise up thing. It’s time for something else.

Tom G

January 25th, 2012
4:39 pm

I agree with you on all five, money could be better spent on obtaining a quality defensive front four like the NY Giants! That is the biggest reason they are in this Super Bowl run, + Eli Manning smarts!!

sainthiram

January 25th, 2012
4:39 pm

why wasn’t smitty , the peroxide bandit , on the keep / dump list ? or is it just a given that the dump column would exceed capacity ?

King Peter

January 25th, 2012
4:41 pm

Bob-right on!

Ted M

January 25th, 2012
4:42 pm

I hate those rise up commercials almost as much as I hate the Falcons playoff performance.

Ted M

January 25th, 2012
4:46 pm

I hate to be a “Debbie Downer” but the Falcons gonna be 7-9 next season.

Falcons4life

January 25th, 2012
4:53 pm

If Brent Grimes leaves in FA. Then there is no way we can cut Dunta Robinson.
We cant lose both starting corners in the same year.

Brownie

January 25th, 2012
4:53 pm

Baker: NOT a top tier LT, so obviously a miss. However, we don’t have a decent right guard – can he transition? He would also still provide at least average play at LT in a pinch. If the answer is that he’s no better than Hawley or Reynolds, then so long.

Jerry: this is a layup – got to go.

Dunta: how does he go from pretty good at Houston to god-awful here?? got his money, and mailed it in? I’m willing to give him one more year under Nolan’s better scheme.

Edwards: keep him – we know he can play; same questions as with Dunta – same expectations of improvement with Nolan. Also, coming off knee surgery, you have to believe he lost strength and explosiveness.

Ovie: Buh-bye. We don’t even need a fullback. The problem with Turner declining in the latter half of ‘11 wasn’t just Ovie being gone…it was because he’s fat and worn down. Turner needs to show up at SPRING practice at around 230 lbs. or so – he’s too old to carry the weight anymore – absolutely has NO lateral movement at all anymore. You could bring in TWO Ovie’s and Turner still is just gonna run into the backs of our offensive linemen

Barry

January 25th, 2012
4:57 pm

Hey Y’all:

since we are talking about upgrading of players, one player that needs upgrading is Michael Turner. The upgrading he can do himself. The guy is too fat and is not lean and fast as other backs in the leaugue. He does not run aggressively with the ball. Just look at the GIANTs running backs and the Niners running backs. Those guys were aggressively running as if their lives depended on it. Mike Turner is a lazy runner, He needs to correct that in the off season.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!

………………………………………..”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!”……………….

Brownie

January 25th, 2012
4:58 pm

Or should I say Turner will just “tip toe” into the backs of the O linemen. sure seemed like the most unproductive 1340 yds ever last season. At crunch time in the playoffs, Turner disappears (always under 50 yards). That could be him, or O linemen, or scheme, or all of the above. But for sure it’s not working with him.

combination of Snelling and Rodgers would be just as good and more flexible – tougher to defend

Falcons4life

January 25th, 2012
5:06 pm

@Brownie
Falcons tried Baker at RG at the panthers, for a series. And after that one series I don’t think they will try him at RG again. lol

Casey

January 25th, 2012
5:06 pm

I Ovie was in there we would’ve converted more 4th and 1’s… A LOT more. Keep him.

Steve-O

January 25th, 2012
5:10 pm

Love all the Coke truck drivers, cube jockeys, and plumbers that post here that CLEARLY know so much for that Dimitroff. You guys should apply for the job and see how much you really know.

Joshua Malavenda

January 25th, 2012
5:11 pm

Here a couple things that falcons should do in the offseason
* = dunta robinson trade **= Peria Jerry trade ***= 3rd Compensation pick for dahl ****trade Micheal turner for a 3 and 4 rd pick
1. Hire a great secondary coach
2. Hire Mike Singletary as the lb coach and assistant to Nolan
3. Hire Howard Mudd as the O-line coach
4. Hire Tom Clements as qb coach
5. Trade Dante Robinson for a 2rd and 4rd pick or turn him into run stopping safety to make use of his great tackling ablity .
6. Let Snelling go in free agency
7. Sign Mike Tolbert in Free agency to replace snelling
8. trade Peria Jerry for a 5th rd pick
9. Resign Bierman and turn him into situational rush lb
10. Resign Curtis Lofton
11Draft either shea Mclellin or Audie Cole in the 4th rd.
12. Draft Coby Fleener 2nd rd
13. Sign Mario Williams or Cliff Anvill
14. Resign Abs to a one year contract
15. Resign Harry Douglass.
16. Draft Josh Norman or ryan stead in 3rd
17.Sign Chase Ford as undrafted fa
18. Draft Zebrie Sanders in 2nd rd*
19. Draft Ben Jones in 3rd***
20 Draft Tyrone Crawford in the 6th rd
21.draft William Vlachios in the 7th rd
22. Draft Ryan Broyles in 5th rd
23. Sign Matt Forte in free agency
24.**** Draft markelle Martin in 3rd rd
25. Let Decoup walk in free agency
26. sign Carl nicks in free agency
27**** draft Mike martin in 4th rd
28. ** Draft ryan miller 5th rd
29.Sign Jeff adams as unsigned fa
30. trade baker for 6 or 7th rd pick

what do you think ?

Steve-O

January 25th, 2012
5:18 pm

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan

January 25th, 2012
4:26 pm

Ryan Leaf on being a bust:

“At least I didnt lose 3straight playoff games”

HA HA HA :)
__________________________________________________________________________________

That’s because he never even smelled the playoffs, much less played in a game. Your trolling is tiresome.

BiggDawgK

January 25th, 2012
5:23 pm

The falcons are notoriously bad at picking in the first round.

Birrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd Man

January 25th, 2012
5:25 pm

Baker is history in my book…as well as our $3 mil fullback. Turner may be the burner, but only after about 5 yards past the line of scrimmage untouched. Try to get something for him.

BiggDawgK

January 25th, 2012
5:27 pm

matt “choke” ryan is a pahtetic little nothing who is also a taint’s fan. I guess pathetic little nothing is synonymous with everyone in new orleans as long as you add drunk and disease ridden

bigdon

January 25th, 2012
5:29 pm

Baker’s gone. Done. Ka-pooey. Edwards needs to stay. Who have we got if Abe splits? I think
L Sid should be given more time. Hell, he had second most sacks (4) with a third of the playing time.
Beerman should stay because every team needs an undersized overachieving white guy. See Patriots. They’ve got a slew of them. Everybody keeps saying Grimes is going to ask for the moon but I haven’te seen any figures. He is a keeper if at all possible. I’m ambivalent about Olvie. All I know for sure is I wouldn’t want to get in a bar room brawl with him. Turner will have his best year
of his career if we cut him and his worst as a Falcon if we keep him. Keep Abe on franchinse for one more season. Jerry is a fairy and has shown less than nothing. And I hate to say it, but if TD
screws the draft pooch one more time it may be time to cut your losses on him. Seems like a great guy but damn he’s made some goofs.

I'm better than McKay was....

January 25th, 2012
5:34 pm

I thought Baker was a R.McKay deal……same year as the Jamaal Anderson bust. No?
Either way Falcons need new bodies on O-Line….until then we’re stuck with him.

I'm better than McKay was....

January 25th, 2012
5:36 pm

Jeff, you definitely hit it right with this list…..time to make amends.

B-man

January 25th, 2012
5:36 pm

You “fire Dimitroff” people are killing me. Look at the track record of any GM in the league. There are always players that don’t work out, even consensus # 1 picks. You all focus on the mistakes, but, there are many positives. Lofton, Weatherspoon, Julio, bringing in Svitek to work hard and earn a job, Matt Ryan, finding guys like James Sanders in FA., Quizz, etc. Even Bierman who is no superstar, but a good quality NFL player who came from a very late round. And my favorite Cory Peters who is a much better player than anyone expected. I believe the problems were in the schemes and playcalling and not the talent. Next year I hope to see more screen passes to quizz (ala darren sproles) and I want to see Spoon coming off the edge like Lawrence Taylor. Watch the games, Spoon could easily do what Clay Mathews does in Green Bay, we just have to turn him loose.

Matty Melt

January 25th, 2012
5:41 pm

I few more of my meltdowns in relevant games and I’m gonna be on Schultz’s gone list. There’s champs and there are chumps, and there are many Falcons since 1966 that are sucker chumps, like who never won a playoff game. Hey, that’s me, right now I’m on that last list.

Bobo is Not the Problem

January 25th, 2012
5:42 pm

Bring back Jeff Van Note.

SugarHillDawg

January 25th, 2012
5:45 pm

Captain Obvious strikes again! And Obama needs to be run out on a rail in November too!!

Consider this:

January 25th, 2012
5:49 pm

Falcons may have advanced further in the playoffs with some OL adjustments. Svitek, Blaylock, Hawley, Clabo(RG old postion),Baker may have been our biggest and fastest combination. I would be cautious about disgarding players that could be retrained. Like everyone else I’d like to see FA solutions but Clabo at RG fulfills a big need and the tackle positions may be easier to cover. In addition please consider this also:

1. Allow Snelling and Turner to switch roles. Orient the running game to the strengths of Snelling and Rogers. Give periodic doses of Turner to beat on Dlines.

2. Seek athletic TE’s.

3. Bring back Trey Lewis at DT. He was dropped for 299lb tackles.

4. Dominique Franks appears solid enough to man a corner full time inexpensively. Chris Owens speed alone is reason enough to retrain him. The Falcons would be deep at corner with Grimes but I wonder if he may prove to expensive.

5. I like the profile on Sanders prior to coming to Atlanta. He is a proven starter. Decoud would be an excellent backup short of spending money on big name FA. Moore performs as advertised.

Tdubz

January 25th, 2012
5:52 pm

Keep Turner, Turner looked rusty b/c Ovie was out all season & didn’t have a lead block. KEEP OVIE! You know all those short yardage situations the Falcons failed to convert? If Ovie was playing, 9/10 would’ve been converted. Ovie’s a crucial part of the run AND pass blocking. & there’s no one better out there. With Koetter’s new screen attack ovie will probably catch more passes. So what if he’s not an offensive threat? He’s a FULLBACK. they’re not supposed to be, The only one I ever saw was Mr. Mike Alstott, but he was just a freak of nature. Otherwise, I agree on everything else. Sam Baker has been garbage & a penalty threat since he’s been in the league. It’s too early to call on Jerry, he missed his whole 1st season. & I saw him make a few good plays this past season. Dunta also got better this season, adapting to the defense. I think he’ll get better, & he’ll be better under Mike Nolan. He’s a hard-hitting corner, a physical presence. Grimes is our coverage guy. Dump the safeties! Decoud just happens to be in the right place at the right time by accident most of the time. & William Moore didn’t do shttt. James Sanders did better than Moore this season. Ray Edwards was just ****** over by Brian VanGorder’s crap defensive schemes. Under Mike Nolan the pass rush will be a major part, & Ray Edwards will be trying to murder the QB again :) Hopefully we’ll re-sign Abe, so he’ll take the heat off of Edwards. Revamp the O-line, dump Decoud & Moore, dump Nicholas, & get a better LB on that side. Get some better back up CB’s. Hayden, Grimes, & Robinson are fine, but who covers when they’re off the field? Franks & Owens. Garbage. I’m done.

Paddy O

January 25th, 2012
6:02 pm

Mr.Schultz: Any chance YOU or maybe the PAID sports editor for this newspaper could post a list of Falcon players with their salaries for 2012 indicated, or would that be too much work for somebody? Or, should I get my news from someplace else?

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
6:13 pm

Falcons need to sign Vincent Jackson to pair opposite Julio Jones. Also draft 6″6″ TE Coby Fleener out
of Stanford. Also, draft running back GANAWAY out of Baylor. Matt Ryan needs BIG RECEIVERS to bail him out of his bad throws.

AlpharettaGuy

January 25th, 2012
6:15 pm

Definitely cut Baker & Turner and whoever else you need to cut to save $$$ & bring in some quality O Lineman! You can get decent RB’s on the cheap. Your RBs are not going to get yards and Ryan is not going to be effective w/out a strong O line…Ryan is a ’system guy’ who stays in the pocket and needs protection. No O line, no progress for this team.

Brownie

January 25th, 2012
6:16 pm

Falcons4life – good point about Baker at right guard – disasterous. However, they threw him in there in the middle of a game (backed up to their own goal line) when he had never played the position. Chance of any success was ZERO.

I’m saying he’s still a decent O lineman, just not a great LT – if they want to work him at RG in the spring to see what he’s got, I think it would be worth it. If we cut him, we take a cap hit, and then might find out he CAN play another OLine position with another team next year (surely won’t be at LT) – not much risk to take a look in the spring.

Bob

January 25th, 2012
6:18 pm

Have any of you twerps ever worn a jockstrap in your life? What a bunch of losers.

SeenThisB4

January 25th, 2012
6:21 pm

Cut Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
6:22 pm

Cut Chris Redman and J. P. Wilson. Both are scrubs. Need to Draft a No. 2 QB. Matt Ryans’ “skinny
behind” is just one hit away from a Peyton Manning Situation.

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
6:26 pm

Target ONE of 3 QBs in this years’ draft to Back-up “Ice Man Ryan” Brock Osweiller(Arizona)
Kellen Moore(Bosie State) or Russell Wilson(Wisconsin).

sainthiram

January 25th, 2012
6:28 pm

sorry seen , they can’t do it ’cause they have no draft to replace them ! hmmmmmm what a perdicament

Jake n Bake

January 25th, 2012
6:30 pm

One of your best posts so far J. But I gotta believe it comes down to that O-Line and Baker. Happy feet Matt wont get us anywhere. If we can really sure up that O-Line maybe we CAN convert an inch or two… Oh and I wanna believe we get some of the 4th down calls with Ovie; but you bring up good points about his $. If he can be a Vet leader like a Tony Richardson under Cutter (New OC), then maybe he’s worth it.. Want to see Julio with a year under his belt too, gotta be nice to inherit as an OC.

JesusHChristo

January 25th, 2012
6:42 pm

LET’S START THE KEEP OVIE TRAIN!!!!!!!

white

January 25th, 2012
6:43 pm

Cut ovie we dont need a fullback with a gimpy weak leg. cut jerry, if a defensive lineman cant get to the qb then he needs to be playing on the offence. Ray Edwards will be much better this year. He played all last year on one and a half legs. D. Robinson will be fine also if Nolan will use him the right way. Grimy needs to stay, theres not a better corner out there. Send abe packing, he was great but getting old quick. Keep Lofton and let hime play with Spoon and Dent. Dent is a head buster. Send Baker packin. We have an awesome o. lineman on the team ,but i forgot his name. There was a highlight reel of him in college and he was the best blocker i have ever seen. Guess Smitty or M.M. didnt like him or wasnt paying him enough to start.Any player that is drafted in the first or second round should be able to come in and make an impact immediately. If they dont then get rid of them.

falconsrus

January 25th, 2012
6:47 pm

I see saint tiger and the whiffs have returned hows it feel

sainthiram

January 25th, 2012
6:53 pm

i don’t know yet- why don’t you give me your 2 pts. worth—ooooops—i mean 2 cent worth. sorry about the freudian slip