Budda Baker

Cardinals Remain In Discussions With S Budda Baker

The Cardinals’ goal of re-tooling one of the league’s thinnest rosters met an obstacle last week when Budda Baker requested a trade. More details have recently come out regarding the veteran safety’s thought process on asking to be moved (or given a sizeable raise) and the team’s handling of the situation.

Baker let the team know in February that he was eyeing either a new contract making him the league’s highest-paid safety of a trade sending him out of Arizona. The 27-year-old has spent his entire six-year career with the Cardinals, collecting five Pro Bowl nods and a pair of All-Pro honors. 2022 marked another highly productive campaign for him despite the team’s overall struggles defensively.

Finances are at the heart of Baker’s trade request; two years remain on his deal, an extension signed in 2020 which has salaries of $13.1MM and $14.2MM in 2023 and ’24. Another factor which is driving his desire to be moved concerns the sidelines. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer notes that the former second-rounder was “wary” of heading into the 2023 season with a new coaching staff in place. The Cardinals replaced Kliff Kingsbury with Jonathon Gannon, who has installed a new staff of coordinators and position coaches.

As Breer adds, Baker had a different head coach in each of his first three seasons in the league. With the Cardinals likely headed for a rebuild under Gannon and new general manager Monti Ossenfort, being moved to a contending team would have obvious appeal. Negotiations for a re-worked deal allowing him to continue in the desert appear to be ongoing, however.

“We have had a lot of conversations with Budda and his representation, a lot of productive conversations,” Ossenfort said Friday, via team reporter Darren Urban. “Those continue to happen. I’d say the conversations that I’ve had with Budda, I want those to remain between Budda and I… I think I’ve been clear how I feel about Budda as a person and as a player, and nothing about that has changed.”

Ossenfort’s praise of Baker makes clear his intention of trying to find a path to nullify the need for a trade to take place. If talks prove fruitless, though, a strong market would likely emerge for the latter given his production. As Arizona weighs its options with the third overall pick in next week’s draft, how they proceed with Baker will remain a storyline to watch.

Cardinals S Budda Baker Requests Trade

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.

Michael Bidwill Included Kyler Murray In Cardinals’ HC Search, Expects QB To Make Early-Season Return

Jonathan Gannon said he would not have taken the Cardinals’ HC job without Kyler Murray in place, and the Pro Bowl quarterback contributed to the search that produced Gannon.

Michael Bidwill mentioned Murray, Budda Baker and Zach Ertz as players he spoke to regarding the team’s long-running coach search, doing so while also speaking with multiple sources outside the team. Bidwill said during an appearance on the Dave Pasch Podcast (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban) he wanted to get a “360-degree view” of each GM and HC candidate.

The owner also tried to downplay concerns Murray might not be available until around midseason. Bidwill expects the franchise QB to be back earlier than the midpoint, calling the fifth-year passer “ahead of schedule.”

I think [his return] is going to be earlier than this midseason, so hopefully it’s toward the beginning of the season, but I don’t want to put any specific dates,” Bidwill said. “There could be setbacks; the progress could slow. But he’s a young man; it looks like he is a fast healer. Things are going well. Let’s hope that keeps going the way it is.”

Months away from Murray being receiving clearance post-ACL surgery, it is too early to put a precise return date on this process. The Cardinals gave extensions to Murray, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury last year. The result led to a staff overhaul, but Murray’s contract stipulates he will not be going anywhere. The 25-year-old passer, whose $46.1MM-per-year deal runs through 2028, has been rehabbing every day at the team facility, per Bidwill.

This offseason will feature two NFC West teams not having their preferred starter at workouts, with Murray and Brock Purdy set to be sidelined throughout the Cards and 49ers’ programs. Separating Arizona in this area: Colt McCoy is also recovering from an injury that stands to sideline him for at least part of Arizona’s offseason workouts. Bidwill said McCoy is coming back from an unspecified injury that “will limit him in the offseason.”

McCoy battled arm and calf issues, leading him to IR, but he resurfaced to replace Murray for two games prior to the latter’s ACL tear. McCoy sustained a concussion in Week 15, his third start of the season, and did not play again. The Cardinals cleared their backup from concussion protocol in Week 17, but McCoy experienced more symptoms during a practice soon after and finished the season out of action. The longtime backup will turn 37 before Week 1; his two-year, $7.5MM contract runs through the 2023 season. The two QBs to finish the season for the Cards — David Blough and Trace McSorley — are eligible for restricted and unrestricted free agency, respectively.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/28/22

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders 

NFC Injury Rumors: Baker, Lynch, Bucs

Cardinals star safety Budda Baker suffered a fractured shoulder last Sunday in the team’s overtime loss to the Buccaneers, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Despite the fact that Baker didn’t exit the game, he is expected to sit out the final two games of the regular season. Considering the fact that Arizona has already been eliminated from postseason contention, there’s no reason to risk further injury to the heart and soul of the team’s defense.

For the last two games of the season, Arizona will likely start the next man on the depth chart, veteran safety Chris Banjo. Baker was voted to the Pro Bowl this year, meaning a replacement will have to be made for him in that game, as well. 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga should get the start in place of Baker, but the alternate to replace his spot has yet to be named. Vikings safety Harrison Smith and Lions safety Kerby Joseph were both top vote getters in fan voting, though.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFC:

  • Another player set to miss the remainder of the regular season, Vikings defensive lineman James Lynch is dealing with a shoulder injury, according to Rapoport. The young defender has graded out impressively as the league’s 41st-best interior defender, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), despite not holding a starting position. Minnesota is pulling him back from play now in order to rehab him in hopes that he will be able to make a return in the playoffs. Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips will continue to start on the defensive line, but Lynch’s absence should open the door for Khyiris Tonga and Esezi Otomewo to earn more snaps in rotation.
  • The Buccaneers have not had both of their starting tackles active in a game together since Week 12. While Tampa Bay finally got right tackle Tristan Wirfs back from injury last weekend, left tackle Donovan Smith was unable play with a foot injury. Wirfs, who had missed three straight games with an ankle injury, reportedly aggravated the injury when a player fell on him from behind, according to Buccaneers senior writer/editor Scott Smith. Head coach Todd Bowles told media that he hopes Smith can return this week and, while he was unclear on Wirfs availability for next week, Bowles called the situation “not ideal.”

Cardinals S Budda Baker, G Will Hernandez To Miss Time

As they attempt to pick up the pieces from a disappointing first half, the Cardinals must begin doing so without one of their best players. Budda Baker will be forced out of the lineup due to a high ankle sprain, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The Cardinals are hoping the All-Pro safety can come back in two or three weeks. Arizona’s Week 13 bye could be a factor here. The Cardinals play the Rams, 49ers and Chargers ahead of that week.

Arizona will also be without starting guard Will Hernandez for the time being. While Hernandez does not have a definitive timetable, Kliff Kingsbury did not sound too optimistic about the offseason addition returning soon. Kingsbury said (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban, on Twitter) he is hopeful this is not a season-ending pectoral injury. This will stall a solid bounce-back season from the former Giants starter.

This will be relatively new territory for Baker. The sixth-year defender has missed three games throughout his career. He has been one of the best draft picks of Steve Keim‘s GM tenure, making four Pro Bowls and becoming a two-time first-team All-Pro.

The Cardinals have both Baker and Jalen Thompson signed long term, with the former tied to a four-year, $59MM extension. This certainly stands to limit Arizona’s pass defense — one a subaverage cornerback situation already impacts. Dropping their sixth game of the season, the Cardinals exited Week 9 as the league’s 26th-ranked defense.

Signed to a low-cost deal this offseason, Hernandez became an instant starter opposite Justin Pugh. Despite a limited market, the four-year Giants starter has provided some stability up front for Arizona, which has seen injuries decimate its interior offensive front. Pugh is out for the season, while Max Garcia has missed the past two Arizona games. The eighth-year veteran could return in Week 10, per Kingsbury, and will be an option to replace Hernandez. Kingsbury said center Rodney Hudson is not expected to make his return in Week 10. Hudson, who contemplated retirement this offseason, has not played since Week 4. Billy Price is likely to start at center again against the Rams.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Defense

After looking at this year’s top salary cap numbers on the offensive side of the ball, here is a rundown of the players counting the most toward their teams’ payrolls in 2022.

As could be expected, the salary figures here start below the quarterbacks. A few pass rushers, however, are tied to notable cap hits. Those numbers that check in within the top 20 leaguewide regardless of position. With the exception of true nose tackles and pure slot cornerbacks, every defensive position is represented here.

Here are the top cap figures on the defensive side for the ’22 season:

  1. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $31.12MM
  2. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $29.42MM
  3. Joey Bosa, OLB (Chargers): $28.25MM
  4. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $27.3MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DT (Rams): $27MM
  6. Jalen Ramsey, CB (Rams): $23.2MM
  7. Deion Jones, LB (Falcons): $20.1MM
  8. Bud Dupree, OLB (Titans): $19.2MM
  9. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.85MM
  10. Javon Hargrave, DT (Eagles): $17.8MM
  11. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $17.5MM
  12. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $17.42MM
  13. Robert Quinn, DE (Bears): $17.14MM
  14. Matt Judon, OLB (Patriots): $16.5MM
  15. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $16MM
  16. Shaquill Griffin, CB (Jaguars): $16.44MM
  17. Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills): $16.4MM
  18. J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): $15.9MM
  19. Marcus Peters, CB (Ravens): $15.5MM
  20. Carl Lawson, DE (Jets): $15.33MM
  21. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $15.1MM
  22. Lavonte David, LB (Buccaneers): $14.79MM
  23. Budda Baker, S (Cardinals): $14.78MM
  24. Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): $14.5MM
  25. Trey Hendrickson, DE (Bengals): $14.49MM
  • Illustrating how much the cap has climbed over the past several seasons, T.J. Watt is tied to a number nearly twice that of J.J. Watt, who has been tied to $16.7MM-per-year (a defender-record number in 2014) and $14MM-AAV deals as a pro. Trailing his older brother in Defensive Player of the Year honors, T.J. is signed to an edge defender-record $28MM-per-year accord.
  • Jones’ four-year Chiefs deal vaults from an $8.5MM cap number in 2021 to the league’s second-highest defensive figure this year. The standout defensive tackle’s cap hit accompanies Patrick Mahomes‘ $35.79MM number, which is well north of his 2021 figure, on Kansas City’s new-look payroll.
  • After two franchise tags, Williams scored a monster extension in 2021. The well-paid Giants D-lineman’s cap number this year is way up from his 2021 number ($9.4MM).
  • The Rams redid Donald’s contract last month, adding no new years to the through-2024 pact. The all-world defender’s cap hit actually decreases in 2023, dropping to $26MM
  • It is not certain Deion Jones will be back with the Falcons, who have jettisoned other Super Bowl LI cornerstones from the roster since the current regime took over in 2021. But they would save just $1MM were they to release the seventh-year linebacker.
  • To date, this represents the high-water mark for Mosley cap hits on his Jets deal, which at the time (2019) began a sea change for off-ball linebacker contracts. Mosley’s cap hit, on a pact that runs through 2024 because of the linebacker opting out of the 2020 season, increased by $10MM from 2021-22.
  • Hargrave is one of five Eagles pass rushers signed to veteran contracts. The ex-Steeler’s 2021 deal accompanies Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Fletcher Cox‘s new agreement on Philadelphia’s defensive front. As cap hits do not reflect average salaries, Hargrave is the only member of this quartet tied to an eight-figure cap number in 2022.
  • Quinn has also been connected to a departure, with the 31-year-old pass rusher skipping minicamp after it became known he would like to be traded away from the rebuilding team. His cap hit tops the Bears’ payroll. The Bears would save $12.9MM by trading Quinn, should another team sign up for taking on his full 2022 base salary.

West Notes: Cards, Hawks, Raiders, Lindsay

The Cardinals‘ defensive resurgence will be tested this week. Budda Baker is dealing with a torn thumb UCL, and Kliff Kingsbury expects the high-priced safety to undergo surgery soon, Howard Balzer of SI.com notes. Baker is expected to miss at least Sunday’s game against the Panthers, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, but given that this injury sidelined Drew Brees five weeks and will shelve Jalen Reagor longer, a multiweek absence would not be surprising. Baker confirmed surgery is in the cards (Twitter link). The fourth-year safety, however, played all but one of the Cards’ defensive snaps against the Lions — despite having sustained this injury previously.

An interesting name has surfaced as a possible replacement. The Cardinals brought in T.J. Ward for a workout, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Ward interestingly played three seasons with the Broncos, serving as one of the anchors for Denver’s No Fly Zone Super Bowl-winning secondary, but did not make their 53-man roster in Vance Joseph‘s first year as the team’s head coach. The then-Joseph-led Broncos cut the veteran safety in 2017, leading Ward to the Buccaneers. Joseph is now the Cardinals’ DC. Ward, 33, has not played since the 2017 season.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Pete Carroll said during a radio interview Chris Carson has a Grade 1 knee sprain, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter) the Seahawks‘ starting running back is in line to miss one or two games. A questionable tackle from Cowboys defensive lineman Trysten Hill, which included a post-play twist of Carson’s leg, led to the injury. Carson has dealt with injuries during his time as Seattle’s starter — including a broken leg in 2017 and a season-ending hip malady last year — but has only missed three games over the past two seasons. The Seahawks have Rashaad Penny on their PUP list, leaving free agent addition Carlos Hyde as the next man up.
  • Seahawks first-round rookie Jordyn Brooks suffered a knee injury as well, but he did not suffer ACL damage and should return this season. Brooks is recovering from an MCL sprain, per Rapoport (on Twitter). The first-year linebacker will likely miss a game or two.
  • Raiders first-round cornerback Damon Arnette is visiting a thumb specialist Tuesday, and Rapoport notes he could miss up to six weeks (Twitter link). This was an aggravation of a previous injury, with Arnette having broken his thumb prior to the regular season’s outset. Arnette fell awkwardly on the injured thumb during Sunday’s game against the Patriots.
  • Second-year Raiders safety Johnathan Abram played through an AC joint sprain Sunday, but questions about the injury persist. Abram collided with a TV cart during the Raiders’ Week 2 win over the Saints, and the NFL has engaged in discussions with ESPN about where the network’s carts can be during games, per Pelissero and Rapoport. The cart was closer to the field because of the COVID-19 pandemic restricting cheerleaders, photographers and other personnel from the sideline. Abram missed almost all of last season following an injury during the Raiders’ Week 1 game on a Monday night.
  • The Broncos are now down five of their six Pro Bowlers, after Jurrell Casey‘s season-ending biceps tear. But that number of injured standouts could be reduced to four soon. Phillip Lindsay returned to practice last week and may be on track to face the Jets on Thursday, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Lindsay has been battling turf toe since suffering the injury during Denver’s opener.
  • The stomach pains that caused Chiefs guard Andrew Wylie to be transported to the hospital prior to Monday night’s Chiefs-Ravens game are believed to have stemmed from appendicitis and not a COVID-related concern, Pelissero tweets.

Injury Notes: Baker, Thomas, Hunter

Cardinals star safety Budda Baker is playing through a torn UCL in his thumb, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. Baker plans to play in Arizona’s game against the Lions this afternoon and then undergo surgery this week. Although the same injury sidelined Saints QB Drew Brees for six weeks last season, Baker obviously does not have to throw the football and believes he will miss only the Cardinals’ Week 4 contest against the Panthers before returning to the field to take on the Jets in Week 5.

Now for more injury-related news regarding a few of the league’s high-profile players:

  • There has been a great deal of talk about Brees’ struggles early this season, but the Saints‘ signal-caller may soon have his top target back. Wide receiver Michael Thomas has looked good in workouts and is eyeing a Week 4 return, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings need a boost on both sides of the ball, and they are clearly missing DE Danielle Hunter. As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, Hunter, who is dealing with a herniated disc in his neck, is eligible to come off IR next week but is unlikely to be ready to return by then. However, he is regaining strength, and the team remains optimistic that he will be back this season.
  • Titans WR A.J. Brown is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, and the injury is a significant one, according to Schefter (via Twitter). Brown’s knee has not responded as well to treatment as the team had hoped, and he might end up missing more than just this afternoon’s game against Minnesota.
  • More difficult news for Tennessee. Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson is eligible to come off IR this week, but Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com hears that Jackson may not be sufficiently recovered from his knee injury for that to happen (Twitter link). It’s unclear how much additional time the 2017 first-rounder will miss.
  • 49ers WR Deebo Samuel is likely to return to practice this week, as Rapoport notes (via Twitter). Samuel will be eased into action, and while he probably won’t play in Week 4, the Niners’ top wideout is expected back for the team’s Week 5 bout with the Dolphins.

Cardinals, Budda Baker Agree To Record-Breaking Extension 

Budda Baker is now the highest-paid safety in NFL history. On Tuesday, the Cardinals agreed to a four-year, $59MM extension with their young standout defender (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). 

[RELATED: Cardinals To Sign Dre Kirkpatrick]

Baker’s deal includes a whopping $33.1MM guaranteed and comes out to an annual average of $14.75MM. Before the re-up, Baker was set to earn just $1.396MM in base pay in the walk year of his rookie deal. With that, Baker tops the previous watermark set by Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who signed a four-year, $58.4MM extension with the Bears earlier this year.

The 24-year-old has impressed across three pro seasons, though he has never intercepted a pass as a pro. He has, however, notched 323 tackles, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 14 passes defensed in total. Last year, he registered 104 solo stops to lead the league. Baker appeared as a slot corner earlier in his career, but he’s clearly found a home as a safety.

With Baker, edge rusher Chandler Jones, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and versatile rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the Cardinals boast one of the league’s most intriguing defenses. They’ll look to put it all together in 2020 and improve on their 5-10-1 mark from last year.

Baker’s deal has surely captured the attention of new Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. Adams has spent years lobbying for a market-setting contract and he’ll surely leapfrog Baker in 2021. For now, Adams has agreed to table the talks.