Dolphins free agency: Falcons’ Sam Baker an option if Jake Long leaves

The Dolphins will need an experienced tackle if Jake Long bolts – and fellow 2008 first-round pick Sam Baker might be the solution.

03/09/2013 12:00 AM

03/09/2013 12:17 AM

The Jake Long Era in Miami is potentially down to its final days, so let’s revisit one last time Bill Parcells’ infamous draft-day decision that changed the direction of two franchises.

The Dolphins took Jake Long with the first overall pick in 2008. The Falcons selected Matt Ryan third, and then traded up to grab tackle Sam Baker at No. 21. The Falcons had their franchise quarterback. The Dolphins? They’ve since used high picks on three QBs, including Chad Henne later in the 2008 draft.

And, with no lack of irony, the Dolphins could replace Long with the Baker, who was the seventh of eight tackles taken in the first round this year.

Back then, it was considered a draft class rich at tackle. Five years on, it looks even better. This year’s free agent group is littered with members of the Class of ’08.

Long and Baker are available. So is Gosder Cherilus. Ryan Clady and Branden Albert would have gotten monster deals if they hadn’t been franchised. (Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith are also on the market, but both entered the league in 2009).

POSITION OF NEED

So there are options out there for the Dolphins, who as of Tuesday will have just one tackle – Jonathan Martin – on their roster who took more than one snap last year.

In short, we’ve established the need. But is it strong enough for the Dolphins to pull the ultimate switcheroo – swapping one former first-rounder with talent but inconsistent play (Long) for another (Baker)?

Signing the latter certainly could be a cheaper option. Long is looking for a contract that will pay him more than $10 million a year. Many, including former NFL executive Charley Casserly, believe Baker would fetch a multi-year deal paying him roughly $7 million per, similar to the one given to the Giants’ Will Beatty last month.

“I thought his technique was good, effort was good, and he did a solid job,” Casserly said. “He played better last year. He was way off the year before, but improved last year.”

Ah yes, 2011. In a word: Disastrous. Baker was benched after a brutal start to the season. The low point: Week 2 against the Eagles, when he was a turnstile. He only allowed one sack, but that stat is misleading. He also surrendered nine hurries.

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