CARDINALS CORNER

Contract year? Cardinals’ Budda Baker treats every season like a contract year

Jun 3, 2024, 8:08 PM

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker’s future in the desert is up in the air as he enters the final year of his deal.

Could this be the last season Baker dons a Cardinals jersey?

Or will he and the new regime agree on an extension that keeps the safety in Arizona for years to come?

Either way, the safety’s mindset remains the same.

“A lot of people think about the money. Some players might think, ‘Contract year, I gotta do extra.’ I treat every single year like a contract year,” Baker said Monday. “For me, I love this game. I play it at a high level each and every week because of the work I put in each and every week. For me, I’m an honest believer in controlling what I can control and do my job. At the end of the day, everything else will take care of itself.

“That’s my main goal this year like it is every year. Continue to do my job at a high level, continue to play high football, elite football and when the ball comes my way, get it out the sky. And when it doesn’t, run to the ball. That’s what I am, A to Z, run to the ball. Everything else can take care of itself. I’ll let my agent handle all that other stuff.”

Yes, there is that contractual question mark looming, but the safety has been everything and more for head coach Jonathan Gannon since the new regime took over just a year ago.

As the head coach put it last year, “he plays the game … how it should be played.”

On top of his leadership within the locker room and overall buy-in to the new culture after a reworking of his current deal, Baker also gave Gannon a prime example of the mentality he wants from his players by not letting a torn hamstring suffered ahead of Week 2 hold him down for long.

Despite missing five games — something the safety had never done in a single season — Baker found his way back on the field and still notched 87 tackles (five for loss) on his way to sixth Pro Bowl appearance in seven NFL seasons.

But while the All-Pro has lived up to the expectations of Gannon and general manager Monti Ossenfort, Baker knows there’s more to the NFL than the Xs and Os.

“Me being here seven years, this’ll be Year 8, of course you would love to be on a football team that you got drafted to,” the safety said. “I know it’s the not the same GM or it’s not the same head coach, but I understand if I continue to do my job at a high level — this is our fourth coaching staff and I’m still on the team — it shows what type of character I have and what kind of work ethic I put onto the field no matter what, no matter who’s there, who’s coaching, I’m going to do my job and be that person that other guys can look on as well and ask questions to.

“I understand that it’s a business. … We have this football team right now. Every year changes. This year, I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue to get to know my players, get to know my rooks, get to know everybody and play football at a high level and most importantly, the name of the game is to win. We haven’t really done that much and that’s what I really want to do. I really want to win, I really want these fans to be happy and excited and to come to the games and have those packed-out houses.”

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