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

DocDawg

January 25th, 2012
7:02 pm

I think Baker was a AB pick, not TD’s fault. We’ll never know, but I’ll give him a pass on that. Lofton was a hit, Chevis, no, Harry Douglass and DeCoud, meh. He got some value for the Beerman as a 5th rounder. 2009 it gets bad, Jerry is a galactic bust, William Moore is a player who can’t stay on the field – bust. Credit him for Sidbury with a 4 and Vance Walker with a 7. Garrett Reynolds in the 5th was a New England style pick he busted on. 2010, he hit on Spoon and 3rd rounder Corey Peters. Busted on his offensive linemen (that’s a oh-fer so far). Last year, JJ was a can’t miss. Akeem and Quizz get incomplete grades. Got nothing out of Andrew Jackson.

That is not a very good track record.

Lamar

January 25th, 2012
7:04 pm

ARE THESE GUYS IN ORDER? OR JUST LISTED? REASON i AM ASKING IS #1 GUY SHOULD BE DUNTA ROBINSON, WHAT AN EXCUSE FOR A CB. IF MY GRAND MOTHER WAS THE WR, SHE WOULD BEAT HIM DEEP! AND THEY ARE PAYING HIM WHAT????? HARD TO BELIEVE. It might cost the Falcons 5 million to cut him, BUT IF THEY WANT TO WIN, he better go!!!!!!

Steve

January 25th, 2012
7:07 pm

Quality free agents are not cheap.

I agree with Jeff on who we are dumping, including Ovie. Ovie would be the one guy I would keep, but there are plenty of good ‘block-only’ FB’s available for cheap.

However, I do not like the free agent idea for getting replacements. Why tie-up our cap space with vets that are probably free agents for the same reason that Jerry, Baker and the lot are. Sure, they are out there to save money, but why not go with younger guys and give them a legit shot.

Example, I would much rather see a two-back tandem of Snelling/Rodgers than keeping Turner around. I would even rather see us pick up a guy like Moreno (likely to be cut), or Thomas Brown looked good with the Falcons in pre-season his first year before his injury and was really never given another chance because of the glut of overpaid RB’s at the time (Turner, Norwood). Now, maybe Brown isn’t the right guy, but I bring him up because we have Snelling and Rodgers who we need to make a huge part of this offense NOW. Not a couple of years from now, or as 4-5 plays a game guys .. but as legitimate weapons.

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
7:15 pm

Running Backs in the NFL need to be COMBO Backs. Turner MUST BE CUT! Turner is to “OLD SCHOOL” Prototypical NFL RB now is 5″10″–6″0″ 200-225lbs MAX. Burner burns no more.

TD has no clue!

January 25th, 2012
7:17 pm

Cut them all. You people giving TD a pass are crazy. He drafts too many often injured busts.
His free agents are horrible too. Get rid of him…problem solved because TD has no clue.

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
7:28 pm

TD has a clue. When he drafted Sam ” I am” Baker and Peria ” the waterman” Jerry, he went conservative. He went with what all the draft experts were saying. He did not trust his own instincts.
Remember, this guy drafted Pro Bowl DT Vince Wilfork, and how good has Wilfork been?
” I Thought so!” Enough said about the GM Ladies.

Saloon Door Sam

January 25th, 2012
7:31 pm

I hope they keep me !

El Barto

January 25th, 2012
7:38 pm

Trade Baker and Jerry to Clevland for Joe Thomas or Denver for Ryan Clady, BUT no draft picks offered to the other teams unless Denver or Clevalnd gives Atlanta one of their Draft Picks.
For Example:
Denver —> Baker and Jerry, 5 or 6th round pick 2013 base upon Denvers making the playoffs
Atlanta —> Clady and 4 or 5th round pick 2012 + 5 or 6th pick 2013 based upon a condition of Falcons making the playoffs.

Bud Wiser

January 25th, 2012
7:53 pm

IF they are willing to take a pay cut combined with a performance/incentive laden contract, then keep Baker and Jerry; if not, then give them a map of I-20 West towards Kansas City. (better have the full routing there, we don’t want another Pascual Perez incident)

Edwards obviously was eating the fall-off scraps from the rare Jared Allen missed tackles buffet. Like Jerry, if the crumbs miss the lap napkin, sit and wait for the next one.

Robinson was a better player with a better team around him. With the Falcons current d-line and secondary, he falls to the level of his peers.

Ovie at least got hurt playing hard, which you could be sure he always would do. Don’t take a guy’s job because of injury. Let him (and the doctors) pronounce himself fit and ready for duty, then see if he performs. He’s a Seabiscuit of NFL fullbacks.

briley parkway

January 25th, 2012
7:54 pm

Every time Samuel L. Jackson says “what do Falcons do?” I hear “what does Marcellus Wallace look like?”

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 25th, 2012
7:56 pm

0-3 means no new contract

HA HA HA :)

Cannonball Butler

January 25th, 2012
7:57 pm

Time to trade Turner while he still has value and draft a stud RB. Also need to draft a TE, Toney’s not going to be around forever.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 25th, 2012
8:02 pm

I think we can still get a pound of poop for CHOKE but we gotta hurry

HA HA HA :)

cdog

January 25th, 2012
8:14 pm

if peyton manning is available, bring him in also. he’s not scared and is a winner unlike matt ryan. also bring in players that are winners and can cover in the secondary.it must be fixed for the falcons to have a chance at the superbowl next year

sainthiram

January 25th, 2012
8:28 pm

no chance next year- the saints will be playing in the first ever home field superbowl. why? we got spagNOLA and y’all had to settle for whats his name

zorba

January 25th, 2012
8:29 pm

Totally agree about the “MISTAKES” – and they are. Also, like your reasoning for the keep or cut decisions. I like how you “cut to the chase”.

DJ

January 25th, 2012
8:41 pm

1. Dunta must go no matter the cost. He has done absolutely nothing for this team and is a liability everytime he is on the field. Any one of our second stringers can cover better than him….
2. Turners time is up. Was a great RB but now does not have the speed or agility he once had. He is too slow to reliably get first downs when needed.
3. Sam Baker- Gone! Our line needs major work and this is a good start…

Nativebird

January 25th, 2012
8:48 pm

#1 mistake has already been fixed…..Mularkey is gone.

steven A.

January 25th, 2012
8:51 pm

Matt Ryan was drafted about 13 Picks ahead of Joe Flacco. Who would you rather have?

GTJeff

January 25th, 2012
8:53 pm

I have been watching the Falcons since I was 5 which was during Bartkowski’s heydays & am a diehard fan. You idiots that rag on Matt Ryan need to get a life. Matt Ryan is the best quarterback this franchise has EVER had. PERIOD. He holds 5 out of 14 single game, single season & career passing records for this franchise….by his 4th year as a starter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Falcons

He has gotten better every year. I suspect most of the fools who believe we need another quarterback are fans of that thug who wore number 7 around here & nearly destroyed our franchise.

BAMAJACKET

January 25th, 2012
8:57 pm

I’ve heard a lot about changes and the running game. But let’s stop for a moment and examine where we are and what we need. TD, what would it take to trade up for Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama ? This would SOLVE ALOT OF ISSUES………

DieHard

January 25th, 2012
8:57 pm

Really cut dunta and not edwards. Yeah right. Edwards is getting paid 30 million for 10 sacks in his 5 year contract and he plans on blaming the coaches every year. Dunta will thrive in nolans system and we can get some bad at picks for trading turner,baker a lt,and jerry. Mughelli is arguebly the best blocking fullback in the league. He doesnt get enough credit in my opinion.

GTJeff

January 25th, 2012
8:57 pm

Steven A. Answer is Matt Ryan in a heart beat. Better quarterback period. Look at the stats. Ryan took a perennial toliet of a Franchise after a season where its “franchise quarterback” was jailed, the head coach skipped town without saying a word to his players & a 4-12 season. Joe “immature whiner” Flacco has rode on the coattail of the best defense in the past 10 years of a franchise that was consistently in the playoffs. For you Flacco fans, think about this: Trent Dilwad was able to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl & win it. What has Super Flacco done? I rest my case.

Eric

January 25th, 2012
8:59 pm

Enter your comments here

Eric

January 25th, 2012
9:02 pm

Matty Freeze Up is not living up to his pay check

Matt Ryan

January 25th, 2012
9:04 pm

This whole situation is depressing. For all the good work the organization has done over the last four years they are going to have to take a step back to regroup and stride forward again.

We don’t have enough medical information to make the calls on Baker, Jerry, and Mughelli. Period. The vote is silly.

Healthy, Baker is an athletic above-agerage LT, fully capable of holding down the starting position. With a bad back he still showed athleticism on special teams but couldn’t stand up to the pounding in the trenches. If you get a good medical report bring him back to camp; healthy, he will beat out Svitek.

Jerry: Who knows? If the coaches think he still has upside potential they don’t have anyone else who does, so that’s an easy call to bring him back.

Robinson: Economics scream to keep him. Common sense says don’t cut him, trade him.

Edwards: Keeper.

Mughelli: The combination of Baker’s injury, Mughelli’s, and letting Harvey Dahl go sank the Falcons in the playoffs. With a weak OL the Falcons absolutely need a healthy Mughelli. If they shore up the OL (dream on) they could dump Ovie and pick up another journeyman plowhorse at lower cost and pick up a pass-receiving BB/TE in the draft or FA. Given the OL needs more help than they can provide, Mughelli is worth every penny of his salary when healthy. He CAN run and he CAN catch passes, he just wasn’t used that way. New OC might want him.

ws

January 25th, 2012
9:07 pm

PADDY-O, go to yahoo sports. go to nfl teams, go to roster of team Falcons)it will give you most of players salaries.Some of player it will not list(N/A). just for inform. will spock u what some makes that does not do crap.2.5M for Redman, Weems makes more that Lofton, what a joke.

Eric

January 25th, 2012
9:10 pm

Cam Newton or Matt ryan?

Josh Freeman or Matt Ryan?

Drew Brees or Matt Ryan?

We lose

ws

January 25th, 2012
9:12 pm

Bloggers on here think the other NFL teams are dumb. Give draft picks for them. You could not get one pick for the whole lot of them. Salary is too high.They will just wait and pick up the ones they want when you cut them.As falcons did with Hayden and Sanders

Matt Ryan

January 25th, 2012
9:14 pm

“Matt Ryan is the best quarterback this franchise has EVER had. PERIOD”

Chris Chandler. He accomplished what Ryan hasn’t to this point behind a sub-standard pass-protecting offensive line. Superior deep passer, just as good at managing the game, Now, if Ryan had led the Falcons to the Super Bowl this year then I’d give him the nod. Chandler ultimately got beat to a pulp; to Ryan’s credit he is still standing.

Delbert D.

January 25th, 2012
9:35 pm

The knock on Baker before the draft was that he had “short arms”. Measure them in training camp; if they haven’t grown longer, cut him. You can windmill faster with shorter arms. Ice skaters spin faster by drawing their arms in. Baker is good at windmilling, or turn-stiling, whatever you want to call it for free hits on the quarterback.

Foothills

January 25th, 2012
9:39 pm

Benny-if you want Ovie for that money you are welcomed to pay him. Don’t know of anyone in history that got that kind of contract to be a blocking back

Foothills

January 25th, 2012
9:43 pm

I remember when Dimitroff took over his words were, IIRC, “we’ll build from the inside-out” Funny, they unraveled from the inside-out this yr.

AlpharettaGuy

January 25th, 2012
9:50 pm

Keeping it real & being realistic, Ryan is not a bad QB, he’s just not great & he’s had 3 shots at ’stepping up’ in a playoff game & he’s progressively stepped down. That’s just a fact–offense was terrible vs Giants & he led the way. Best QB in Atl history? Not for me. Vick, Chandler, Bartowski, Ryan all in same ballpark. Atlanta just hasn’t had any great QBs. Ryan is good in his own world–protected in the pocket, not throwing deep. Throwing deep, flushed from the pocket, making a play on a broken play, QB sneak or any kind of run–he’s not good. Offensive identify gonna need to be more run than pass. Ryan is ok but he ain’t elite & won’t ever be. He sure gets a lot of ink on these posts, tho!

Jeff

January 25th, 2012
9:54 pm

Baker was an all-American at USC for three years and before his injury did a great job of protection in his first years at ATL..

Perry was the highest rated DT on the board when it came time for ATL to draft the year he was drafted.

Moore I never understood. I had hoped they would pick Chung that year- OOPS he is going to a superbowl with Patriots.

Dan Petrino will ALWAYS suck in my book becuase he passed on Patrick Willis the year Danny P picked Jamal “can’t find my sack much less make one” Anderson. The only thing Willis had done prior to the draft was raise himself and his kid brother- It was SO VERY OBVIOUS that he was a not only a great football player, but a great human being.

Mughelli is tough and didn’t like him at first, but do now. really worried about his comeback from knee injury though. Perry never came back from Knee injury because he was never here.

Put Dunta in man coverage on the opposition’s best receiver, let Grimes do his zone thing, and get boykin as a nickel. Boykin can actually catch the ball on defense (Moore & Decoud- it is OK to intercept the ball, ok?), line up in the offense as a back or receiver (cross between devin hester & Sproles), and return kicks for touchdowns. HE CAN TAKE THE ROCK TO THE HOUSE FROM ANY PLACE ON THE FIELD ON OFFENSE OR DEFENSE. .

Need OL zeitler or Jones

No TE or DE available this year. Maybe rush LB (West Virgina Guy)

d-bird

January 25th, 2012
10:10 pm

Thomas Dimitroff, you are a joke in my book. TD never built anything in New England. He was a puppet on Bill and Robert Kraft rope. Yea, he sat in the war room during draft time, but how effective was he and were did he play football. Great write up by Shultz! Time to get rid of some these 1st round bums and draft a guy with pro bowl ability. Atlanta has suffered enough. We want to win and win now. Mr Blank I only hope you read some of these blog being posted about our organization. Yes, I said our organization. Hell I’ve been a season ticket hold for 13 years and stood behind my birds no matter what. P. Jerry (Bust), J. Noorwood (Bust), Sam Baker (Bust), J. Anderson (Bust). Oh Yea I for got one (Rich McKay) Major Bust.

Greg M

January 25th, 2012
10:26 pm

blane f.

January 25th, 2012
10:47 pm

someone PLEASE take a look at ladarius green from la-lafayette. a pass catching tight end.this guy is gonna be a steal for some team.

Marc

January 25th, 2012
11:01 pm

Falcon Realist

January 25th, 2012
11:21 pm

The OL from Alabama.

Joshua Malavenda

January 25th, 2012
11:42 pm

We arent really that bad of a jam considering where we came from about 4 years ago it could be alot worse.. Yes Thomas and Mike made some drafting mistakes and some free agent mistakes but I am pretty sure that td and Mike are going to get out of this situation too. Lets trust in the process folks and lets see what happends.

El barto- Are you kidding me those trades arent even fair it reminds me of a trade on Madden. YOu could get probably like 4 at the best and the 6th at the least for baker and same for Jerry but I have heard about worse this year. If that happends Mike holegrim and John Elway should both be fired the day of and never ever let be gms again.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 25th, 2012
11:42 pm

GTJeff

January 25th, 2012
8:57 pm

Steven A. Answer is Matt Ryan in a heart beat. Better quarterback period. Look at the stats. Ryan took a perennial toliet of a Franchise after a season where its “franchise quarterback” was jailed, the head coach skipped town without saying a word to his players & a 4-12 season. Joe “immature whiner” Flacco has rode on the coattail of the best defense in the past 10 years of a franchise that was consistently in the playoffs. For you Flacco fans, think about this: Trent Dilwad was able to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl & win it. What has Super Flacco done? I rest my case.

____________________________________________

The same year CHOKE was drafted, the Ravens were coming off of a 5-11 season. So much for that 10 year top defense theory :)

Before Flacco was drafted, the Ravens only had 2 back to back winning seasons. Flacco has not missed the playoffs in his WHOLE career.

Flacco has 5 playoff wins, 2 championship games, including 4 road playoff wins.

CHOKE has ZERO anything in the playoffs except for 3 CHOKES :)

joe

January 25th, 2012
11:47 pm

Falcons need a Good QB.

Vince Doodly

January 25th, 2012
11:48 pm

Ovie Mughelli is a valuable part of the falcons offense. Of course now with a new OC, who knows. I love the guy. A tough player and a valuable asset up to now. Money talks though.

dont get it??

January 26th, 2012
12:11 am

Why is getting rid Ovie Mughelli even up for bet?????? If the falcon don’t keep then there the dumbest team ever!

Gritsfalcon

January 26th, 2012
2:09 am

I like Mughelli, but it seems the Falcons give out these rather lucrative contracts and the player either rests on his laurels or isn’t as good as advertised. Who’s fault would that be? I do think Baker and Jerrry should go. (Jerry is another J. Anderson bust on the D line.) Really, the Falcons need two mean, aggresive, veteran guards!!! Can they get Harvey Dahl back? That is what they miss on the O line!!!

Knowledge Bone

January 26th, 2012
3:09 am

Simple Solution.

-Cut Baker…but before giving him the pink slip have him change everyone on the teams oil in the Georgia Dome parking lot, beat him with a rubber hose…then send him on his way.

-Pierre Jerry…who is that again?? Outta Here!

-Donta Robinson. Keep him, but force him to live in Vine City and walk to work…and by work I mean cut that mop off his head, walk over to the dome and use it in the restrooms work.

-Ray Edwards. Any football player that does a photo shoot of himself doing push ups in a speedo gets his a## kicked. Outta Ere’

-Ovie Muhalie (sp?)- I heard him on the radio a while back, he sounds like an all right dude

clay

January 26th, 2012
3:31 am

Were about to find out just how good TD and MS are.

Jim

January 26th, 2012
4:21 am

This team just has massive problems…the excuses are already in place,i.e., “the players have to have time to adjust to the schemes of the new offensive and defensive coordinators.” Heard that before?

drew

January 26th, 2012
6:15 am

When deciding who to keep and who to cut, you have to ask yourself:
“Does he look like a b1tch?”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuDUnKPyzww