WASHINGTON — Chris Baker was one of the most vocal proponents last offseason for the Redskins bringing back Kirk Cousins. Now, a year later, the defensive end has to think about his own financial future.
Undrafted out of Hampton, Baker has spent the better part of his seven NFL seasons proving he’s among the best in the league at his position, and with 47 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2016, indeed he has. At some point, Baker will need to make the best financial decision for himself and his family, and at 29 years old, there’s no more opportune time than now.
“I just have to see what happens during the process,” Baker told Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan Monday. “Obviously the money does play an issue, but I would love to continue to be a Redskin, but at the end of the day I have to do what’s best for me and my family.”
“I was an undrafted guy,” he noted. “So I’ve got to take this opportunity to cash in while I can because I don’t have too many more years left in this league. I’ve done a good job at proving I’m one of the best defensive ends in this league and hopefully I’m compensated for that.”
That’s a brutally honest self-assessment from a player who’s had to work his way from the bottom to the top of the pay scale, the type of reality which brought forth this comically uncomfortable interaction between Baker and Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan last offseason.
Baker is as impassioned on the field as players come, the living embodiment of McCloughan’s favorite attribute — a true “football player.” Sometimes that passion boils over. It’s what drove him to a sideline outburst this season with defensive coordinator Joe Barry. But make no mistake, that was no indictment from Baker on Barry’s ability to do his job.
At a time when fans are publicly decrying Barry so voraciously reporters feel required to ask the coordinator about his own job security, Baker has taken another tone.
“I’m not sure what to tell those people,” Baker told Dukes. “Joe Barry’s a great guy. He’s a great coach.”
“Obviously when you start up your own defense there’s going to be ups and downs and you just gotta continue to work with the guys and get a lot of talented guys around them to make your defense work,” he said. “I’ve never seen a defensive coach or a coordinator go out there and miss a tackle. It’s up to us as players to go out there and perform the way we’re supposed to perform to make our coordinator look good.
“We have to tackle better, we have to play situational football better and get off the field when that time presents itself. But it’s not always on the coach and it’s not always on the players, though. We just have to find what works. If that’s bringing in new players and more talent to help this defense succeed, then that’s just what we have to do.”
In Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Giants, the Redskins defense did its job, holding New York to 10 points through three quarters as the Redskins offense languished by repeatedly blowing scoring opportunities. It was the inverse of what fans had witnessed from the Redskins for much of a maligned 2016, the offense wilting at the most urgent point of the season.
“I mean it’s a little frustrating because obviously it’s a team game,” Baker said. “There’s plenty of times this year when the offense had put up a lot of points and we had trouble stopping people, so sometimes you’re gonna have to pick the other side of the ball up.”
“We tried our best to keep the Giants off the field, out of the end zone and get our offense back the ball as much as possible but the Giants’ defense really stepped up,” he said. “They’ve been playing really good lately and they did a good job by really stopping everything our offense was trying to do.”
Where does that leave the Redskins now?
“We’re very close,” Baker said of being competitive enough to compete for the NFC crown. “I don’t know how many games we lost just with the last possession, or whether it’s just getting one more stop as a defense or having a dropped ball down as an offense, or having to make a field goal at the end of the game to win the game. It was very close, we just missed on a few.”
“Like, you could pick like four or five really key plays that really turned our season around and kept us out of the playoffs,” he said. “But the good teams find a way to make those plays and the bad team’s don’t, and you’re at home at this time of the year.”