The Chiefs may (key word) have hit the lottery midway through the 2020 season when they were able to sign Deandre Baker as a free agent.
Baker was released by the New York Giants back in September after already being placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, which would have kept the second-year cornerback from playing anyway. The reason: Baker was arrested and charged with four counts each of aggravated assault and armed robbery after he and fellow NFL player Quinton Dunbar allegedly robbed party guests at an event in south Florida.
All the while, Baker maintained his innocence and was eventually cleared of all charges when it turned out the accusers had been trying to extort the NFL players for money. Still the damage had been done and Baker was a free agent. The Giants decided to cut ties completely despite Baker’s innocence, and the first cornerback selected in the 2019 NFL Draft was suddenly available to anyone.
Enter the Chiefs, who landed Baker on a one-year deal worth the league minimum. Right now he’s on the practice squad, but it’s safe to assume we’ll see him on the field down the stretch once he’s ready. (Remember, he’s had no preseason, no practices, etc. to get in game shape.) When he does, it will be interesting to see what he has.
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to how well Baker might live up to his first-round billing, but he looked much better in his final few games as a rookie starter for the Giants in 2019. And the Chiefs will have at least a few games to see how he looks in red and gold.
Moving forward, unless there’s some COVID-year loophole here at work, Baker is an exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA), which means if the Chiefs offer him a contract, he must play under it. That’s true of any single player who doesn’t have three accrued seasons of NFL service. What’s interesting here is that the Chiefs have kept Baker on the practice squad long enough to keep this year from counting, because one accrued season equals six games. For Baker, the most he can play in 2020 is now five games. That means the Chiefs have two more full years with Baker under their complete control at likely a league minimum cost.
Even after his ERFA status is up, the Chiefs will still have the rights to Baker as a restricted free agent entering the 2023 season. In short, the Chiefs have a first round pick at the cost of a rookie free agent yet control him all the same as if they drafted him in the first place. If Baker plays remotely like a first round pick, this is a ridiculous gift for the Chiefs.
Signed through (potentially): 2023