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Cardinals Trade Up For Budda Baker

Posted Apr 28, 2017

Safety helps secondary depth after free-agent losses in March

The Cardinals targeted another versatile defensive player with the second-round selection of DB Budda Baker.

Budda Baker, fan of individual NFL players more than teams and a guy who has long looked up to new teammate Tyrann Mathieu, happened to see a Mathieu tweet Friday morning, long before the Cardinals made the Washington safety their second-round pick.

“Some real 1st-rounders will be drafted today,” Mathieu tweeted.

Baker believed it, thinking it “crazy” later in the day that he had retweeted the message just a few hours before he became a Cardinal himself.

“I thought about that when they called me,” the University of Washington safety said.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, certainly thought Baker was a first-round talent. It’s why they made a trade with the Bears to jump up nine spots in the second round, giving up their own second-round pick as well as a fourth- and sixth-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick. The Cardinals got back a seventh-round pick.

But it was worth it to General Manager Steve Keim, who coveted Baker – who is similar in height but a little thicker than Mathieu at 5-10 and 192 pounds, but like Mathieu can play both safety spots and nickel cornerback.

It’s why Keim and Bruce Arians were giddy after the trade went through to make sure they got Baker, who like first-round pick linebacker Haason Reddick, should make an immediate impact.

“I don’t remember a draft, other than the Fitz-Dansby draft, that we had two players rated so high … (and) you felt so strongly about them,” Keim said.

The 2004 draft not only produced Larry Fitzgerald and Karlos Dansby – who are now teammates of Reddick and Baker – but also Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith. It was easily the Cardinals’ best draft in Arizona and arguably ever.

It’s way too early to see where this draft might go. But clearly, Baker’s arrival means a lot.

“Along the lines of Tyrann Mathieu, I can bring versatility,” Baker said. Like Mathieu, he’s considered a solid tackler.

Baker joins a secondary which currently has Mathieu and newly signed veteran Antoine Bethea as expected starters, after losing Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger to free agency.

Baker had two interceptions in his final year with Washington, although he had several near-misses. He also had three sacks – a combination that is very Mathieu-like. Keim noted that the Cardinals played in their sub-package defense 79 percent of the time last season, a package that often employed three safeties.

“He’s just a guy who jumps out on tape on you,” Keim said. “When you see the ‘32’ jersey, you can’t help but think of Ty.”

The Cards even got back their missing fourth-round pick when they made a trade down in the third round with the Panthers, dropping from 77 overall to 98, knowing they could still get Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams. In the deal, the Cards got Carolina’s fourth-round pick, which is five picks sooner than the Cards’ original fourth-round choice.

Arians said Baker would miss most of OTAs this offseason, a victim of the Washington school calendar. But the Cardinals aren’t worried about it. Baker has trained some with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and former Pro Bowler Ronde Barber.

In fact, Baker said after he was drafted that because he didn’t know much about the Cardinals’ defense, he was going to go watch some video with his former Washington defensive backs coach.

“I’ll get more of the defense down today,” Baker said.

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