Cardinals’ Budda Baker still a top-5 safety in ESPN’s annual ranking

Jul 12, 2023, 10:11 AM

Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker...

Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates as he runs off the field after defeating the Dallas Cowboys 25-22 at AT&T Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker landed fourth among NFL safeties in ESPN’s annual ranking of the position group released Wednesday.

Compiled by ESPN NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler, the list is ranked by anonymous executives, coaches, scouts and players voting on a top-10.

It’s a move up the ESPN leaderboard for Baker after coming in fifth a year prior.

The safety, who remains in a contract dispute with the team this offseason, has never finished worse than 9th in the four years since the ranking’s inception.

Scouts and coaches have applauded Baker’s physicality and explosiveness. That admiration has only grown with a third consecutive top-five ranking.

“You can do so many things with him, and oh yeah, he’s going to hit with the best of him,” an NFC scout said. “He’s a missile.”

It was another textbook season from Baker in 2022, with the safety registering 111 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defensed and a forced fumble across 15 games played.

He could have easily missed more than two games last season, too, pushing through shoulder and ankle issues on more than one occasion.

Baker now enters a new season healthy and asking for a new contract that would pay the three-time All-Pro safety “fairly” or else be traded.

He only confirmed his stance while avoiding any potential fines from the team during mandatory minicamp. While he was at the training facility in Tempe, Baker did not take part in any of the on-the-field work.

Despite the no-shows on the practice fields, head coach Jonathan Gannon and numerous players spoke on Baker’s continued leadership and attention to detail in meetings.

And while there’s still an unknown surrounding any type of new deal, it’s a matter of when not if in the eyes of at least one executive.

“That guy won’t be going anywhere,” the executive — whose team would love to have a player such as Baker — said. “That’s the last guy you trade. A true difference-maker.”

Baker is the only Cardinal ranked in the top 10 among any of the five position groups — off-ball linebackers, defensive tackles, edge rushers, cornerbacks, safeties — that have been released so far.

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