Chris Baker took the long road from Penn State washout to respected NFL starter. A lifetime of hard work paid off on Thursday, when the former undrafted free agent inked a three-year deal worth over $6 million a year to leave Washington for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers per Ian Rapoport.
He’s the second former Washington player to sign with the Bucs, who also landed star wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Baker started all 16 games for Washington last season, and while he wasn’t able to match his stats from 2015, he proved his value as a two-way defensive lineman who can squash the run game and batter passers in the pocket. He’s tallied 10.5 sacks the last two seasons to firmly established himself as an above average NFL defensive lineman.
It wasn’t always that way. Baker’s football career was put in jeopardy after he was expelled from Penn State after a pair of off-campus fights in 2007. Those issues chased him down to Hampton University, where he revived his career as an All-MEAC selection, but failed to impress enough to earn a selection in the 2009 NFL draft.
He landed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent, but played just one game with Denver before being released. He had a brief stint in the United Football League before being signed away by the Dolphins, who added him to their practice squad. He played a sole game in Miami and was released in 2011.
That led him to Washington, where a patient franchise developed the burly defensive lineman into a valuable piece of its 3-4 defense. Baker played in 29 games his first two seasons with the club, but didn’t develop into a starter until 2014. The 6’2, 325-pound lane clogger has been a key piece of the franchise’s resurgence and has been a bright spot on an otherwise ineffective defensive lineup.
Now, he’ll be a part of a Bucs defensive line that was in desperate need for depth. He will most likely play as a nose tackle in their system, and see snaps in 3-4 sets. He will pair up with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on some looks to form a strong interior defense for Tampa Bay.