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Atlanta Falcons' Sam Baker eyes full medical clearance


One of the keys to an Atlanta Falcons resurgence in 2014 is keeping Matt Ryan upright.

The Falcons had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. The group gave up 100 quarterback pressures and 44 sacks.

The return of tackle Sam Baker is a major piece of the puzzle. The 28-year-old played just four games in 2013 with left knee troubles. He underwent surgery and was placed on injured reserve in November.

Baker told's Vaughn McClure on Monday night he expect to be fully cleared this week.

"I'm feeling good," Baker said. "In a couple days, I should be cleared. I've been running, doing everything, and I should get fully cleared in a couple days. It's great, especially because we're getting ready with the offseason stuff, to be able to get out with the offense and to be able to go back to doing plays and stuff like that.''

Getting Baker back is a positive, but the Falcons should still look to add a tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The question is when they will take that tackle.

Though general manager Thomas Dimitroff toys with the option of moving up, it's presumably not to chase an offensive tackle. However, if the Falcons move back from the No. 6 spot -- or even remain in that slot -- taking a much-needed lineman is a good possibility.

The Falcons still seem smitten with Baker, and hunting for a pass rusher appears to be at the top of the list. However, after giving Ryan a $100 million contract last offseason, protecting that investment should be the priority.

Drafting a left tackle early and moving the returning Baker to the right side could help shore up a huge weakness.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks out the crystal ball and predicts the potential surprises that could shake up the NFL Draft.


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