Budda Baker has been with the Cardinals for six years, becoming a perennial Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro. But the standout safety has become dissatisfied with his situation.
The Cardinals have received a Baker trade request, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Baker recently removed Cardinals mentions from his Twitter profile. His most recent post/GIF effectively set the table for this request, with veteran Cardinals reporter Kyle Odegard indicating (via Twitter) it was likely aimed at dissatisfaction with the Cardinals.
Baker, 27, is one of the Cards’ team leaders and is the longest-tenured player on Arizona’s defense. This is not a recent development, per ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss and Jeremy Fowler, who indicate (via Twitter) Baker has been unhappy with the team for much of the offseason. This is a contract-related trade request, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, who reports Baker told the Cardinals in February to either trade him or make him the league’s highest-paid safety (Twitter link).
Two seasons remain on Baker’s contract, a $14.75MM-per-year deal he signed in 2020. This coming season represents the first without any guaranteed money on Baker’s second contract. he is tied to base salaries of $13.1MM (2023) and $14.2MM (’24). The former second-round pick has made the Pro Bowl four years running.
In addition to his place as a Cardinals leader, Baker is one of the NFL’s best safeties. He earned first-team All-Pro acclaim in 2020 and collected second-team honors in 2021, helping the Cards to the playoffs largely without the services of J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins. Baker has four 100-plus-tackle seasons on his resume and has intercepted eight passes in the 2020s. Baker secured his extension in August 2020 without having made a single NFL INT. Last season, Baker suffered a high ankle sprain but played through it. His two missed games came in the season’s final two weeks.
The safety market has shifted since Baker signed his four-year, $59MM deal, though most positional markets feature new ceilings compared to the 2020 offseason. Jessie Bates‘ recent Falcons contract bumped Baker down to seventh among safeties this offseason. At the time, however, Baker’s contract made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety. Justin Simmons, Harrison Smith, Jamal Adams, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James preceded Bates in passing him. James raised the AAV bar to nearly $20MM last summer.
Baker’s request comes during another eventful Cardinals offseason. The Cards have hired a new GM and HC (Monti Ossenfort, Jonathan Gannon), moving on from Steve Keim — who drafted Baker six years ago — and Kliff Kingsbury. Former Cardinals safety and veteran exec Adrian Wilson is no longer with the club, either, having left for a Panthers position. The defense has also undergone some changes, losing Watt, Byron Murphy and Zach Allen. Baker contributed to the process that produced the Gannon hire, but his status with the new HC is tenuous.
The Cardinals, who snapped a playoff drought in 2021, are not expected to contend this season. Kyler Murray is not on track to be ready for the start of the season, and the team has made it known Hopkins is available via trade. While the Cardinals are unlikely to seek out a Baker trade, they are exploring ways to add assets — via the Hopkins process or a trade-down maneuver from No. 3 overall — as Ossenfort begins his GM tenure.