WASHINGTON — Last offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Chris Baker the long-term contract that the Washington Redskins would not provide, committing $15.75 million ($6 million guaranteed at signing) over three years.
The team was scheduled to pay an additional $3 million to Baker next month, but instead chose to part ways on Tuesday:
There was no stated reason for Baker’s release, but it seems to have been a little bit of everything.
Like any player, it started with his statistical production.
Baker averaged 16 games, 13 starts, 50 tackles and five sacks in his last two seasons in Washington. In his only season in Tampa Bay he experienced some regression, with 15 games, 14 starts, 33 tackles (66.7 percent) and 0.5 sacks (10 percent).
Stats don’t tell the whole story for defensive linemen, who can be schemed to either make plays or eat up blockers. But few players attract attention quite like Baker, and it could be his antics that have cost him again.
Known for his outspoken “Swaggy” persona in Washington, Baker was unafraid to fight with national media personalities or call out Redskins’ coaches for scheme in his last season in D.C. That is rumored to have been part of why the Redskins made no efforts to re-sign him last offseason, a move that he called “hurtful.”
But it didn’t take long for Baker to find the spotlight in Florida.
He was a camera darling on HBO’s Hard Knocks, which covered the team in training camp. He seemed to revel in the misery of kicker Roberto Aguayo, who was cut by the team during the series.
In early November, he apologized to Bucs fans for the team’s bad play. Every locker room chemistry is different, but the storylines are always the same: players win as a team and lose with personal accountability. Apologizing for team play can rub some coaches, teammates and front office personnel the wrong way.
In Week 16, Baker committed an egregious offsides penalty that cost the Bucs the game against the division rival Carolina Panthers. He was reported to have been “all smiles” in the locker room after the game, which drew the ire of his teammates. While the media was present, several players, including quarterback Jameis Winston, got in Baker’s face and had to be restrained.
Then there’s this from beat reporter Jenna Laine:
Baker, aka “Swaggy,” may have enjoyed a reputation as a carefree, friendly guy when he was with the Washington Redskins, but multiple sources said that his effort in practice was a constant issue when he was there.
This wasn’t something that was unearthed late during his time with the Bucs; it was a well-known fact that the coaching staff would have to ride Baker hard to get the most out of him.
Attracting too much attention and avoiding accountability, poor preparation, poor performance and being a bad teammate are pretty much the four horsemen of a career apocalypse.
Don’t be surprised if Baker ends up somewhere this offseason, but his stock is significantly lower than this time last year.
At least he leaves Tampa with his eyes faced forward: