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

Wis-Kid

January 28th, 2012
9:02 am

@boby Lofton is one to keep.He played at pro-bowl level this season. I am not sure of who you were watching, maybe you should upgrade you broadcast service or something, but Lofton lead the team in tackles two years straight.

Wis-Kid

January 28th, 2012
9:09 am

You can be rest assured, Grimes isn’t going anywhere. Trust yo Boi!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robinit

January 28th, 2012
11:57 am

Can’t cut the best full-back in the league. He can catch, but he hasn’t gotten many opportunities

Robinit

January 28th, 2012
11:59 am

The middle linebacker SHOULD lead the team in tackles ALWAYS! That being said, I love him. My favorite tackle of his was against Marcedes lewis this year. That is a big guy to take down as hard as he did.

Eric

January 28th, 2012
12:20 pm

I love Grimes but I think he is gone. I think he wants out of here. He protected himself by not playing in the Giants playoff game.

Eric

January 28th, 2012
12:25 pm

we need a back with some wiggle in the hips and Mattr Freeze Up has to step up and play BIG IN BIG GAMES. I am at the end of my my rope with Matt!!! If he does not come up big next year I am turning in my my 4 season tickets.

FalconsFan23

January 28th, 2012
12:26 pm

I think we should keep Ovie, Dunta, Edwards, Abraham, and Grimes without a doubt maybe Peria Jerry but I think we get rid of baker and sign someone like Carl nicks and I think we can’t afford to lose Michael turner or roddy white but get rid of Snelling and get someone like cortland finnegan in coverage and maybe draft a corner and guard or tackle maybe another receiver in case Harry Douglas leaves

Eric

January 28th, 2012
12:30 pm

I still can’t believe that the FALCONS show up for a playoff game and scores 2 points. Am I by myself on this issue? 2 points are you kidding me!!!!

Eric

January 28th, 2012
12:36 pm

i like Harry Douglas!!! He looks like a new england type of reciever.

Eric

January 28th, 2012
12:43 pm

FALCONS FANS RISE UP!!!! NO

FALCONS FRONT OFFICE WISE UP!!! YES

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 28th, 2012
3:02 pm

It’s amazing that Peyton Manning a future hall of famer, is held accountable, but CHOKE who hasn’t done jack, is still protected by the AJC and it’s LOSER fans.

There is no wonder this franchise will always be LOSERVILLE.

HA HA HA :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 28th, 2012
3:04 pm

CHOKE is not worth a bag of fertilizer

HA HA HA :)

Joey

January 28th, 2012
3:37 pm

Maybe you will “CHOKE” on something soon. And maybe Falcons fans will get to watch, then do a Marine/dead Taliban on you . . .

FL dawg

January 28th, 2012
4:19 pm

They better damn sure keep Mughelli and Turner if their gonna keep Ryan. C’mon man Ryan”s arm is weaker than Tebow’s on certain passes. The Falcons are, like most teams, able to do what their players can do. Ryan is a smart guy, I quess, but his arm strenghth sucks. Therefore ATL has to run, and play action/screen pass. Skinny post to Roddy’s their bread ans butter and Ryan/White do it well. Did MR impress anybody sides the Falcons at rookie combine?

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 28th, 2012
9:25 pm

Dolphins picked a lineman over CHOKE.

Enough said.

HA HA HA :)

alex

January 28th, 2012
9:47 pm

keep sam jackson, build a stadium in east point and get the famu band for half time, bring marta right to the stadium and serve cognac at the games..there you have it “keep it classy atlanta…”

Tom G

January 29th, 2012
3:12 pm

No more skill guys until you fix OL and DL(pass rushers)!!! Bring Harvey Dahl back from Rams, we need his attitude on the field. He plays until whistle blows and sometimes after it blows, but he seems to take no crap from anybody while on the field.

Nerehere

January 29th, 2012
10:05 pm

Pro Bowl is a joke. Sissy pass rush, no tackling the quarterback? I mean, why even televise this NFL vacation? Yeah, I know-your family is there watching, not wanting you guys to get scratched or hit. Yada yada yada. What a waste of television time.

Nerehere

January 29th, 2012
10:10 pm

Very interesting television show on CNN @ 8pm. Dr. Sonjay talks to coaches at different levels about football concussions. In addition, their are several football articles about former NFL players who have this lawsuit going on with the NFL regarding the concussions. No wonder what we seeing now in NFL games are lots of whistles and attention paid to guys leveling each other with hits to the head.

LawDawg

January 30th, 2012
11:47 am

I voted yes on Mughelli before reading that he stands to make $3,733,335. That is unbelievable.

Barbara Person

January 30th, 2012
2:14 pm

If you keep trading veterans and getting new replacements, there will be NO adhesiveness to the team. Our biggest block to this last season is the NL lockout, no otas, no coach/team practice, no getting used to each other until about the ninth or tenth game. You need to have additions to what talent we already have, not trade for bigger and better and they become a BUST!!! Give it one more year with what you got plus help in the secondary. J. Rogers should be able to compliment Michael Turner and Ray Edwards should be able to compliment John Abraham. Need another one of those in the secondary. Need to use Brent Grimes and Weems more. Need complimentary help not subtractions.

aj

January 30th, 2012
3:47 pm

Ugh. Sam Baker is officially the sacrificial goat. The herd mentality is an ugly thing,Indeed.None of those players had a damned thing to do with the fact that the play calling is atrocious and our playoff opponents knew exactly what we were going to do.This time next year Mike Smith will be gone and we will be stating the obvious:He is a personable guy who will not step on Arthur Blank’s shiny well shod toes,a ‘player’s coach’ who is imminently likeable.

aj

January 30th, 2012
3:54 pm

maybe he can trim his toenails or groom his greyhounds or whatever after they can his a**,win us a Super bowl,Nope.

W.R.Terrell

January 30th, 2012
6:26 pm

Jerry was not a mistake, move him to Defensive end, he’s quick and bull strong and I believe he can adapt. There’s no need to pay a backup as much as Baker will be paid, either he shows something in training camp or hit the door to another team. Ovie can run the ball if given the chance, don’t give up on him. Dunta may simply need another defensive scheme.

Brent grimes may run for the money but if loyalty means anything then he should remain a Falcon and big play Ray is not a mistake, not by a longshot. Takes a moment to come back from an injury. He’s signed and can be a good asset.