Budda Baker is essential for Arizona Cardinals success in 2023

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 13: Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals gestures during warmups prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 13: Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals gestures during warmups prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

It’s a luxury to enjoy what you do for a living. Plenty of Americans dream of keeping the lights on with funds earned from developing their God-given talents. Still, working below your value is unacceptable. Professionals devote time and resources to perform at a high level. Why not demand top dollar for services? This is a prerequisite for athletes in the NFL, which is why the Cardinals must sign their superstar safety — Budda Baker — to a long-term deal

Arizona Cardinals are in the midst of an early rebuilding phase, and Budda Baker’s future is in question

Identifying strengths on rosters that lack depth is easy. When I think of the Arizona Cardinals, it isn’t hard to find their X-Factors or lack of them. In times past, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were players who kept winning traditions alive. They were pillars of the franchise, surrounded by role players eager to win. J.J Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and other superstar-caliber players are now memories of the past.

Monti Ossenfort’s team rests on the shoulders of people with a lot to prove. Kyler Murray and Drew Petzing are entering the first year of what fans hope will be a strong marriage between QB and OC. Inconsistencies in the past cost the Cardinals production. In 2020, Arizona ranked 30th in Pro Football Focus’ offensive (63.2) and 31st in receiving (65.1) ratings. Additions to Petzing’s receiver room help Arizona produce better results this season. Arizona drafted Stanford’s Michael Wilson in the third round of this year’s draft. His 6’2″ frame is complemented by 4.58 forty-yard dash speed. He’ll pair perfectly with Marquise Brown and Zach Pascal as they hope to revamp the offense.

Kyler Murray will rely heavily on the defensive to keep opposing offenses at a halt while he develops chemistry with new targets. Defusing offenses is how Jonathan Gannon makes his living. His resilience led the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl to Super Bowl LVII. Gannon’s unit ranked first in defensive (93.7) and pass rush (90.1) ratings. Philadelphia also accumulated 70 sacks, ranking first in the league in the category.

Jonathan Gannon needs Budda Baker to jumpstart Arizona’s success this season

Duplicating success may come with its share of challenges for Gannon. The Cardinals have limited X-Factors on defense, which could present problems for the new head coach. Last season, Gannon was surrounded by All-Pro talent. Haason Reddick, Darius Slay, and Fletcher Cox helped Philadelphia maintain their stout defensive reputation. Finding players that could replicate their roles on the Cardinals roster is almost impossible. There is one player that is skilled enough to become a catalyst for Gannon’s young unit. He’s earned his reputation as an elite defensive back, and the Cardinals need to pay him as such.

Budda Baker will be the best player on Arizona’s defense this upcoming season. This isn’t a surprise for most fans. Quickness, strength, and resilience solidified him as Arizona’s anchor. According to Pro Football Focus, Baker earned the highest defensive rating (73.7) among his teammates last season. He’s a force inside of the box, creating issues for oncoming linemen looking to clear a path. His hard work resulted in an 80.2 run defense grade last season and should increase if paid well this season.

Contract negotiations are making headlines in Arizona. It began in April when a request for a new contract came with an ultimatum. Budda Baker believed he desired to be the highest-paid safety in football, but the Cardinals were not ready to buy in. In 2020, Baker signed a four-year $59 million contract that would bind him to the team until the end of the 2023 season.

The desire for additional funds hasn’t deterred Arizona’s safety from focusing on the upcoming season. His agent David Mulugheta claims Baker will attend Arizona’s training camp despite his trade and contract request. Mulugheta expressed Baker’s desire of becoming “a long-term part of the team.”

Finding success in the first year of coaching will come with its challenges for Jonathan Gannon. He’s a defensive-minded coach for a franchise with problems on both sides of the football. Support from superstar athletes will make the journey a lot smoother for the rookie Head Coach. When asked for his thoughts on the Budda Baker ordeal, Gannon expressed the situation as an “organization thing” providing little input on an important matter. Maybe he has faith that the front office will resolve the situation efficiently.