Budda Baker got a round of applause from his teammates in the locker room and linebacker Chandler Jones introduced him as the “Money Man” as he made his way through the Cardinals' stadium on Tuesday.
Arizona's popular young safety now has some long-term security with the up-and-coming franchise.
The two-time Pro Bowler agreed to terms on a $59 million, four-year contract extension on Tuesday that includes $33.1 million guaranteed, which makes him among the NFL’s highest-paid safeties. Baker's agent David Mulugheta confirmed the financial terms.
“It’s a great thing that this happened, I’m truly blessed that this happened,” Baker said. “Now the full focus is on getting my teammates better and getting the team better and hopefully getting some more W's.”
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Baker played in college at Washington and was drafted in the second round in 2017. The 24-year-old has quickly become a young cornerstone for the Cardinals' defence and led all NFL defensive backs with 147 tackles last season, including 104 solo tackles.
Baker's rookie contract was set to expire after this season, but now he's under contract through 2024.
Arizona's defence was among the NFL's worst in 2019, but had two standout players in Baker and Jones. The Cardinals expect to be much better this fall after several key additions, including free agent linebackers Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell, along with defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. They also used the No. 8 overall pick in April's draft to add versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
The soft-spoken Baker is respected in the Cardinals' locker room and has forged a somewhat unlikely friendship with Jones, an All-Pro who is several years older and much more outgoing. Both of them are among the leaders on the defence , along with three-time All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Arizona GM Steve Keim said that even with the NFL's financial uncertainty due to COVID-19 that could affect the 2021 salary cap, it was crucial that the franchise make a move to keep Baker.
“Budda was at the top of our list,” Keim said. “We knew we had to get him extended. We knew we wanted him to be a core player here for a long time. We're all extremely confident we know what we're getting out of this young man. His passion for the game, his practice habits, the way he shows up every Sunday, I have 100% confidence in knowing that Budda is going to give it to us week in and week out.”
Baker is the first player in franchise history to be selected to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player and a defensive player. He made 16 special teams tackles in 2017 and was the first Cardinals rookie since Peterson to be selected to the Pro Bowl.
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David Brandt, The Associated Press