The Chris Baker signing is key for a 2017 Buccaneers playoff push.
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Tampa Bay set the football world on fire when they announced the signing of Desean Jackson on the first day of Free Agency. However, whilst everyone was clamoring over adding the second-fastest player in football, the Buccaneers made an under the radar move by signing Chris ‘Swaggy’ Baker to add to their defensive line. This move did not take many by surprise as there had been reported interest earlier in the week by Mike Klis for 9News in Denver.
However, Baker may prove to eventually be one of the most important cogs to an improving defensive unit. In Washington, he played mostly as a 3-4 defensive end which means he would fit Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith’s vision which he spoke of last year. A vision of being able to fluidly switch from a 4-3 defensive alignment into a 3-4 alignment.
Baker could possibly be the key to all this happening. His ability to play as a defensive end in a 3-4 as well as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 could be the pivot in which our entire defensive line rotates around. A possible 3-4 alignment of Chris Baker, Sealver Siliga, Gerald McCoy, William Gholston, or Robert Ayers holding up the initial level. Combined with Noah Spence, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and a (hopefully recovered) Jacquies Smith making up the linebacking core would make up an effective 3-4 front with any combination of players listed above.
Furthermore, Baker would be the most important piece in this. He has experience playing every position across a 3-4 defensive front and can provide the versatility to allow virtually any combination of defensive lineman on the field to work.
In addition, Chris Baker will more than likely push Clinton McDonald into a rotational role as the backup to McCoy next season and this can be truly sensational for the defense. With a solid player like McDonald not forced to play next to McCoy early in the game, it should allow Mike Smith to reduce McCoys snaps on the field next season due to McDonald being able to take his place in spurts as the 3-technique. This, in theory, should make him more effective over the long haul as last year he played a staggering 795 snaps from his defensive tackle position even with the injuries he suffered throughout the year.
These are the reasons that Chris Baker may very well be the key to Tampa’s defensive success next season, and perhaps for multiple seasons after that. Not only will Baker be able to provide more lineup flexibility to the defense next season. He should also be able to provide Gerald McCoy more time off of the field, therefore making him more rested for when he is on the field. This deal seems like it could be the biggest win of the free agency period for me. Perhaps even on the same level as DeSean Jackson.