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Budda Baker 'All In' Now With Camp Here, Contract Issue Over

Safety says he believes in Gannon and new direction of Cardinals

Safety Budda Baker, wearing the team's new practice jersey during Friday's work, said he is "all in" with the new coaching staff.
Safety Budda Baker, wearing the team's new practice jersey during Friday's work, said he is "all in" with the new coaching staff.

Budda Baker saw the social post from the NFL about his spot in the NFL Top 100 players, and he got angry.

Not because of where he landed on the list, but because the photo used was him in jersey No. 32, when he had switched to No. 3 two full seasons ago.

"It's the details with me," the Cardinals Pro Bowl safety said.

The detail that mattered most to Baker this offseason was being in "tunnel vision" while his agent tried to work with the team to upgrade his contract, with Baker working out hard to recover from a fractured shoulder while skipping voluntary work with the team.

It all dovetailed nicely, with Baker reporting to camp and practicing the first day, and then news breaking the next day he received a contract upgrade from the team.

"I was letting the outside noise be the outside noise, kind of laughing at it here and there," Baker said of his weird offseason. "Getting some smiles, getting some laughs out of it, but understanding if I put my head down and grind, everything else takes care of itself."

Baker said he never considered not showing up to camp – "I don't believe in those types of things" – and said playing for what looks like a rebuilding team wasn't difficult.

"It wasn't tough because I believe in what (the coaches) preach," Baker said. "When you believe in what they preach, it's easy."

"My job is to continue to be consistent in the way I play, but also to get that culture right," Baker added.

That's why it was so important to have a smooth relationship between the Cardinals and Baker, given his leadership and importance both on and off the field.

"He plays the game, in my opinion, how the game should be played," coach Jonathan Gannon said

The new deal does not add any years to Baker's contract. He is still scheduled to reach free agency after the 2024 season. Baker's contract, as reported by Howard Balzer, now has a guaranteed $13.1 million salary for this season (that money would be guaranteed if Baker had been on the roster Week 1 regardless) and a new $300,000 signing bonus. He can also earn another $200,000 in per-game active bonuses, and a workout bonus of $400,000 has been added if he participates in voluntary work next offseason.

Baker can also earn up to $1.5 million more total based on playing time, and $500,000 each season if he is named to the Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro. The latter incentives are reachable, given that Baker has made the Pro Bowl in all but one of his seasons and that he plays nearly every snap for the Cardinals.

Baker "of course" wants to stay with the Cardinals long-term, saying "I love Arizona and I love Arizona fans." But he isn't naïve. It's his play going forward that will ultimately determine his future, even after five Pro Bowls and emergence as a fan favorite.

"If I'm not playing up to par, you're not going to play in this league," Baker said. "Understanding that and knowing that, is something, that's why I put my head down. I understand this is a business. Yeah I've been drafted here and yeah I'm blessed to be in Arizona but if I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing, I wouldn't be playing."

It's more than that, of course. Baker elevates his teammates – tackle D.J. Humphries said Baker's effort is such that his teammates can't help but try and match and exceed it – and one of the reasons Baker was thinking about his contract is because he knows his rank among the best safeties in the league.

"I think of myself very highly," Baker said. "I also critique myself highly. I know who I am and I'll never express that, because I don't think it needs to be expressed. I think you should just be able to watch it on film, watch it in person and watch it on TV."

The plan for this season is to do it again, regardless of how the Cardinals, as they reset the roster, might perform as a team this season.

"I'm all in," Baker said.

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