Baker on Record Extension: 'Trying to Earn What I Make Now'

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker reacts to his four-year contract extension making him the highest-paid player at the position in NFL history.
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While the four-year contract extension that Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker signed Tuesday reportedly makes him the highest-paid player at the position in NFL history, his goals are unchanging. What might have to be adjusted is his approach, as opposing offenses that may not have schemed against him before likely will consider it now.

"It's a great thing to have that being called upon me," Baker told reporters Tuesday. "But, for me, I'm just very focused on the season. It's a great thing that this happened and I'm truly blessed that this happened. And now, full focus is on getting my teammates better, getting the team better and hopefully get some more W's in the win column.

"It's definitely an exciting thing for me to be labeled to say that. It was a very cool experience and it's a very cool experience right now. But, for me, I'm just trying to earn what I make now. I'm labeled as this player and now I have to continue to show out each and every week. And that's my goal and my plan is to do that."

The Cardinals announced the extension Tuesday and per ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the value of Baker's contract, which will keep him in Arizona through 2024, is $59 million with $33.1 million guaranteed and a $10 million signing bonus. It remains unknown at this point how much of the contract is new money, over and above the $1.396 million he was scheduled to be paid this season on his previous contract.

The $14.75 million annual payout hoists Baker above Chicago's Eddie Jackson, $14.6 million; Tennessee's Kevin Byard, $14.1 million; Kansas City's Tyrann Mathieu, $14 million; and Washington's Landon Collins, $14 million. None of those players are younger than 26-years-old. Baker turns 25 in January.

"Excited to announce our four-year extension with Budda Baker, a guy that we drafted in the second round (in 2017)," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told reporters Tuesday. "In fact, someone who our scouting department across the board had first-round grades on. And I vividly remember sitting in the draft room and seeing Budda's name stick out like a sore thumb. And at that point in time I became extremely motivated to trade up in the second round and acquire his talents. And (that) certainly has not disappointed.

"What does a Cardinal look like? To me, that's everything Budda Baker embodies: his passion; his love for the game; his speed; his explosiveness he plays with on every snap; and his desire. Again, so happy to get him extended and really proud of the young man and what he's accomplished so far. And (we) expect him to take it to greater heights."

The extension comes after Baker's rookie deal was set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. In May of 2017, Arizona signed him to a four-year contract worth $6,829,970, with $4,472,705 guaranteed and a $3,107,252 signing bonus.

"The bottom line is, you can't find a player that plays with more intensity and passion," Keim said. "Somebody who, on every snap, gives you all he's got. And I can promise you there's very few of those guys across the National Football League. In fact, when you talk to guys like (Pittsburgh Steelers head coach) Mike Tomlin and other coaches across the league prior to the game, the one name that comes up quite a bit is Budda Baker. That guy is different.

"The one thing that's different about him is that, when you watch tape, he plays at a different speed than everybody else. Not only because he's fast, (but) because he finishes and he plays like his hair is on fire. I know people have talked about him like a Tasmanian Devil, or whatever it may be, but the guy is all heart. Again, that's why, for me, this is a rewarding day."

During the open portion of practice Tuesday, several of Baker's teammates were heard calling Baker by different nicknames. He said his teammates were overjoyed with the news of his new deal when he arrived at the facility after it was announced.

"'Money man, money guy,' all those type of things are being said," Baker said. "It's all out of love. They're very excited for me. As soon as I got to the locker room I got a round of applause by all the players held by (linebacker) Chandler (Jones). It was definitely a cool experience. Now, it's just a matter of showing it."

Added Keim: "What he talked about earlier about how the locker room responded, I sort of felt like that was going to happen just because of the way the players feel about him and his infectious personality and how he plays the game. To be able to take care of one of your own, that's extremely important to me." 

Baker was a defensive Pro Bowl starter last season and debuted on the NFL Top 100 list this year at No. 97. In his three-year career, he has accumulated 323 tackles, 14 pass deflections, four forced fumbles and 3.5 sacks. Interestingly, he has tallied zero interceptions. He was also a Pro Bowl selection in 2017, but as a special teamer.

"For me, I'm just focused on doing the things I can do to make this team even better each and every year, each and every day," Baker said. "Those are my goals and I'm going to continue to do that for as long as I'm here."

So, what does he plan to do with his newfound wealth?

"I don't know yet," he said. "We'll see. Probably something for my mom or for my sisters first. I want to buy a crib, a house, so we'll see."