Bucs DT Chris Baker - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Buccaneers signed top free agent defensive tackle Chris Baker on Thursday and he held his introductory press conference with the local media on Saturday morning. PewterReport.com takes you inside the Baker press conference for all the highlights and offers up the insight into what his addition means to Tampa Bay.
BAKER’S OPENING STATEMENT
“I’m definitely excited to be here,” Baker said. “You know, my journey in the NFL has been a lot different from a lot of guys being that I was undrafted. I had high hopes for getting drafted but that didn’t happen. But I always was determined to just make myself into a great player and just continue to work as hard as I can to prove everyone wrong. It’s weird that I’m back here, because during the whole [pre-draft] process my only visit from a team was to Tampa. It’s a good feeling to be back here. I remember during the draft process, probably one of the hardest times of my life because I felt like no one wanted me. Turn around eight, nine years, you know, I’m here as a Buccaneer. It can’t be a better feeling. I can’t wait to get to work here. We have a great group on the defensive line, great organization. Happy to get the ball rolling here and can’t wait to get started.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
KOETTER’S REACTION TO BAKER BECOMING A BUCCANEER
“Chris has explosive quickness,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “He can get off blocks and make plays down the line. He brings rush ability, he brings versatility. Washington played a 3-4, so Chris has played defensive end in a 3-4. In the sub-package he’s lined up as a three-technique, he’s lined up as a nose. He’s going to be playing both spots for us, he’s going to fit in great. D-linemen don’t play 100 percent of the plays, d-linemen are almost always in a rotation. You can see we’re really building great depth on our defensive line. Our inside three, joining Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald, what we’ve got coming back on the outside with Robert Ayers, signing Will Gholston back, Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith coming back off an injury. We’re really excited about the group we’re putting together. These two guys are a really nice start to what we’re doing this offseason. Now, it’s just we can’t wait to get them back here full-time and get started.”
WHAT BROUGHT BAKER TO THE BUCS?
Aside from Washington teammate DeSean Jackson, Baker was the top free agent target – but on the defensive side of the ball – for Koetter and general manager Jason Licht. Aside from a three-year, $15.75 million contract that features $9 million in guaranteed money, including a $3 million roster bonus, what brought Baker to Tampa Bay was the chance to play for an up-and-coming team and to get back to playing in a 4-3 defense.
Bucs DT Chris Baker – Photo by: Getty Images
“Being in a 4-3 man, I’ve always been in a 3-4 my whole career,” Baker said. “Haven’t really played in a 4-3 since I left Penn State. Just an opportunity play with, you know, an elite defensive tackle. [Gerald]McCoy is very rare. He’s one of the best in the league. Never really had that opportunity to play with an elite defensive tackle.”
Baker recorded six sacks two years ago in a breakout season with the Redskins, and had 3.5 sacks last year. He’s expecting even more quarterback captures playing nose tackle next to McCoy where he will be singled up on a guard or center while McCoy is double-teamed.
“The ability to get up the field and make plays in the backfield,” said Baker when asked what he’s looking forward to the most in Tampa Bay. “In a 3-4 defense you want to stop the offensive tackle and the offensive guard from getting up on the linebackers. In a 4-3 they expect you to get back there in that backfield and make the plays in that backfield. You always look at sack numbers and the 4-3 guys always have a lot more sacks than the 3-4 guys.”
Baker also mentioned that playing in a state like Florida with no state income tax and great weather was also a plus in his decision-making.
“I love Florida and I’ve always said I want to make Florida my forever home,” Baker said. “This is what I prayed for – to be here. I looked around the teams that were interested in me, but I always said Tampa Bay was my number one choice – just to be here and play with an elite defense. I’ve never had that opportunity. I look forward to working and trying to make this defense a little bit better.”
Bucs DT Chris Baker & WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
WHAT DOES BAKER THINK OF JACKSON?
Baker spent the last three years playing with wide receiver DeSean Jackson in Washington and offered some insight into the type of player Tampa Bay is getting to help its offense become more explosive.
“Oh, he’s a great teammate,” Baker said. “Probably one of the fastest guys. A little cocky but you need that. All of the best players are always highly confident in their ability, and DeSean is no different. He believes in himself. He goes out there and competes each and every day at practice. In a game, it just looks easy. I’m glad to still be his teammate and not have to hold my breath when he catches the ball being on the opposite side.”
BUCS WANTED TO BIG BIGGER UP FRONT AT DT
As I wrote about in Friday’s SR’s Fab 5, the Bucs had a desire to get bigger up front along the defensive line. That became evident when the team elected not to re-sign 300-pound defensive tackle Akeem Spence and opted for the 320-pound Baker, in addition to re-signing 320-pound nose tackle Sealver Siliga. Those two join McCoy, the team’s 300-pound Pro Bowl three-technique tackle, and 290-pound Clinton McDonald, who will likely serve as a reserve at both three-technique and nose tackle this year.
“We want to get bigger in the middle of our defensive line,” Koetter said. “Not just get bigger but you want guys that can make plays.”
With 11.5 career sacks, which is more than Spence and Siliga combined, Baker adds the ability to rush the passer in addition to stopping the run.
“I’m happy to be able to play with an elite defensive tackle like Gerald McCoy. We’re going to get back there and cause havoc,” Baker said. “I’m licking my chops because it’s like, ‘Who are you guys going to pick to double?’ You know what I mean? It’s a great opportunity here. I can’t wait to get to work with those guys and just get out there and dominate.”
While McCoy is one of the more heralded players in the league, Baker is looking to make a name for himself in Tampa as a pass rusher.
“I think it’s very dangerous,” Baker said of the combination of he and McCoy lining up together. “He’s obviously considered one of the best defensive tackles in this league and I consider myself one of the best defensive tackles in this league. To be able to play next to a guy that can get every year probably 10 or more sacks, it’s a great opportunity for someone like myself, who really just started to come on these last two years.”
WHERE DID BAKER GET THE NICKNAME “SWAGGY?”
Baker recalled how he got his “Swaggy” nickname to the local media. He said a friend was playing the NBA2K video game and was rapping, ‘Swaggy this’ and ‘Swaggy that.’ Baker came into the locker room saying, ‘Swaggy this’ and ‘Swaggy that’ around a reporter and he wrote an article where he called him Chris “Swaggy” Baker and the nickname stuck.
WHAT DOES BAKER BRING TO THE BUCS LOCKER ROOM?
The Bucs got one of the best defensive players in free agency to play defensive tackle on the field, but what about in the locker room from a chemistry standpoint?
“I think I’m a funny guy and I like to dance a lot,” Baker said. “But I like to win. From Day 1 I always have taken pride in stopping the run and getting to the passer, and I’ve been able to do both at a high level. To be able to come here and play with the talent that they have here with McCoy and [Robert] Ayers and the rest of the guys will be very exciting with a great rotation.”
Baker used to play with Ayers in Denver. They were both rookies for the Broncos when Ayers was a first-round pick and Baker was an undrafted free agent. The two have remained good friends and are enjoying playing together.
“At the end of the day I’m a good football player,” Baker said. “I’m a good football player. I’m a man of God. I’m a family man. I like to have fun. I have a great personality. I’m easy to talk to. If you see me on the street just say hello and I’ll say hello back. I’m always the guy that plays around a little too much.”
BAKER IS IN THE HOME HIS IDOL BUILT
Baker certainly isn’t comparing his game to Tampa Bay’s Hall of Famer QB Killa, but he has admired his game growing up and is excited to put on the pewter and red colors like his idol used to wear.
“I’m glad to be a Buc,” Baker said. “My favorite player, Warren Sapp, was a Buc, so I’m happy to be here.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
With all due respect, the title of these articles should be changed. “Inside the signing of (player X)” should actually read “Q&A with (player X)”.
Terribly misleading. Was disappointed to see that this was not a behind-the-scenes account of the Bucs’ effort to sign Baker.
This could be upgrade for sure. Seems like his personality fits team and playing beside McCoy. Bucs D line could be one of best and surprise lot people if we stay healthy. Most nonBics fans don’t know how many injuries at DE we had last year. Spence was playing really well for a rookie with an injured shoulder. Ayers is an beast when healthy. Go Bucs!
OK you are in Florida you should move here as quick as possible because the it gets really hot and muggy. Good luck big guy Go Bucs!!
Great signing… Wife likes the nickname, so approvals all around.
I hope Ol’ Swaggy has tried to model his game after his idol. It sure would be nice if has picked up some of his techniques on the field. I would love to see two bull rushers in the middle of the line. This could get pretty interesting to see this year…
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