Cardinals S Budda Baker comes 73rd in NFL players’ top 100 for 2023

Jul 27, 2023, 9:23 AM

Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals safety...

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) is brought down by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (3) and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

All eyes were on Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker’s presence as training camp began Wednesday because of his contractual situation. But it’s related because he represents the face of what could be a cultural reckoning.

The new leadership in Arizona begins with its first-year general manager and head coach, but Baker’s Stinger-Missile style of play makes him the player embodiment of a cultural reset, especially because Kyler Murray is coming off an ACL injury with so much to prove.

The respect for Baker isn’t limited to the Cardinals fan base.

NFL players love the safety as well. As it was revealed Wednesday, Baker ranked 73rd in NFL Network’s annual list of the top 100 players, as voted on by their peers.

It was a slight dip after Baker ranked 67th last year.

“It’s definitely cool to see what players think about each and every player,” Baker said in his own highlight segment.

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, who’s faced Baker plenty in one-on-one matchups, remembers a 2020 season opener that saw Baker pile up 15 tackles.

“Pretty sure he had like 20 tackles against us, and six of those tackles he made, if he doesn’t make that tackle, it’s a touchdown,” Kittle said. “Like, I remember I had a handoff, I’m running around the edge, I don’t even see him and all of a sudden my knees are gone, I’m hitting the ground like, ‘What the heck just happened?'”

Niners teammate and fullback Kyle Juszczyk called Baker the “best safety in the league” thanks to his closing speed.

Fellow defensive backs carry similar opinions.

Seattle Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs said he shares notes with Baker about each others’ plays.

“It’s just a tenacity a lot of guys don’t have,” Diggs said. “Being a smaller guy, I think he just has a chip on his shoulder: ‘Everybody out here is bigger than me, but I’m going to show everyone I’m the best player out here.’ It’s one of my favorite players to watch in the league.”

The segment wrapped by Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell giving Baker the highest of compliments just after a Week 8 Cardinals loss.

“Hey, would stop being such a problem, man? I mean every time. I can’t tell you how much respect I got for you, for real,” O’Connell told Baker at midfield.

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