After a six-year journey with the Redskins, defensive Chris Baker has decided to leave Washington and signed a contract with the Buccaneers.
Although he expressed a desire to retire with the Redskins, defensive end Chris Baker signed his first unrestricted free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team announced.
Baker spent the last six of his eight years in the league in Washington, working his way up from the practice squad to becoming a full-fledged starter in 2015, when he emerged with his best statistical year.
Baker had another productive, if not slightly less impactful, season in 2016 on a defensive line that struggled against the run, combining for 47 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two passes defensed.
The Hampton graduate went undrafted in 2009 and bounced around on the Broncos' and Dolphins' practice squads before latching onto the Redskins two years later. Washington signed him twice as a restricted free agent before the 2013 season and then again to a three-year contract the next year, where he finally stepped into a leadership role.
“I learned that the first day, before I even got to the NFL when I thought I was going to be a draft pick and went undrafted,” Baker said of learning the NFL is a business. “I’ve just worked myself up the depth chart each and every year, and just continue to try and improve myself each and every year. Ever since I got a chance, I have shown what type of player I can be. I think I’ve done a really good job over the past couple years and playing at a high level. So we’ll see what happens.”
Baker broke out in 2015, playing in all 16 games and starting 10, accomplishing career highs in tackles (53) and sacks (6) while forcing three fumbles, helping lead the team to an NFC East division championship.
This past season, as the leader of a veteran group along the defensive line, Baker started in all 16 games, showing off his consistency over the last few seasons, and fighting through some small injuries when he had to.
The Windsor, Conn., native said that he didn’t think too much about his expiring contract throughout the season, hoping to “let the business take care of the business,” and aiming to play well in the process, trusting that teams will acknowledge his high level of consistency from the past few years.
“Oh yeah, it’s very enticing,” Baker said of testing the market after the conclusion of the season. “Especially when you come into the league with high hopes, being drafted high, and then go undrafted and have to work your way through the politics of the NFL, being on practice squads, and just trying to get a chance. I always told people, ‘I’m not sorry. I don’t know why I’m on practice squad, I just need a chance to play.’ Every time I got my chance to play, I always did [well]. Each and every year, people were like ‘I didn’t know you were this good.’ I was like ‘You didn’t let me play.’ Every time I got a chance to play and show the kind of player I can be, I always took advantage of it.”
His absence leaves some more question marks as the Redskins determine a plan to bolster a defensive line that has some promising young players but still has work to do to fill some veteran voids.
“I think, obviously, you look at our defensive line, we have a couple of very young players in A.J. [Francis], and [Joey] Mbu, and obviously, Matt Ioannidis did some good things,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “Anthony Lanier [II], we have very high hopes for in his progress in Year Two. Right now, we have Ricky Jean Francois under contract, and Ziggy Hood’s a free agent and [Chris] Baker’s a free agent, so we have some work to do there without a doubt.”