Back when Chris Baker was considered a bad boy too risky for a draft pick, the Denver Broncos gave the defensive tackle his first chance.
Perhaps, the 6-foot-2, 320-pounder can return to where his story of redemption began when the NFL free-agent period begins with a negotiating period that runs from 10 a.m. Tuesday until the signing period commences at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Baker, a 3-4 defensive end who just played out his three-year, $12 million contract with Washington, is drawing strong interest from the Broncos and Tampa Bay Bucs, according to an NFL source. The Broncos are also expected to express interest in Calais Campbell, a 3-4 defensive end for Arizona who played his high school ball at Denver South.
Besides Baker or Campbell, the Broncos also hope to land a right guard and left tackle in free agency. Right guard candidates could include Detroit’s Larry Warford, Jacksonville’s Patrick Omameh and Minnesota’s Brandon Fusco.
Left tackle candidates could include Andrew Whitworth, the Broncos’ own Russell Okung, and Minnesota’s Matt Kalil and Andre Smith.
Baker, 29, was kicked off Joe Paterno’s Penn State team in 2008, along with Phil Taylor, for off-field brawls. Baker regrouped to play one season at Division I-AA Hampton, then signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.
He made the Broncos’ 53-man roster, but was inactive for all but one game as rookie in 2009. Among Denver’s final cuts prior to the 2010 season, Baker bounced to practice squads in Miami and Washington before his talent began to emerge in 2013.
He got his $4 million a year contract prior to the 2014 season and settled down off the field by marrying highly regarded ESPN talent producer Jamila Phillips in 2015 – a wedding in which former Bronco and childhood friend Terrance Knighton served as best man.
Baker has been a left defensive end who can stop the run and rush the passer (9.5 sacks combined the past two seasons). He would be an ideal complement to Broncos’ right defensive end Derek Wolfe.