A Budda Baker Trade has Upside, But the Vikings Should Inquire about a Different AZ Defender

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
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Recently, Vikings Territory has spent some time covering the proposed trade for the Vikings involving All-Pro safety Budda Baker.

Baker, to be sure, is an excellent defender, someone capable of adding another dynamic to the Brian Flores defense. Only 27, Baker would blend into the team’s emphasis on competitively rebuilding. He has played in the NFL for six seasons, making the Pro Bowl in five of those years. Even more impressive, Baker has been on the AP1 team a couple of times (2017 & 2020) and the AP2 team once (2021).

Even still, a Baker deal isn’t the one Vikings fans should be monitoring.

Budda Baker and The Other Arizona Defender

The reason for the Baker hubbub is a predictive piece on Bleacher Report. Therein, Maurice Moton offers his rationale for how the safety could fit with the Vikings:

Even though the Minnesota Vikings are at a contract impasse with defensive end Danielle Hunter, Baker may not want to reset the safety market with a viable contender (based on the wording in Schefter’s report).* Perhaps the Vikings can satisfy Hunter and Baker with short-term pay raises; they have $18 million in cap space.

In the early weeks of training camp, Minnesota may not see enough out of second-year safety Lewis Cine, who’s coming off a compound leg fracture that required surgery, to trust him in a starting role. As a solution to bolster a pass defense that gave up the second-most yards last year, the Vikings could make an attempt to acquire Baker.

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) against Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Adding a star defender isn’t a bad idea, folks. The issues simply rest in the cost to get him to Minnesota via trade and then the cost to redo his deal.

Dustin Baker thinks the deal could still be worth it, seeing a path forward for the safety to help in the immediate while also functioning as a replacement for Harrison Smith (in a season or two). Meanwhile, Janik Eckardt considers the possibility, displaying a bit more reluctance:

Baker would be an upgrade, no doubt about it. However, the regime around Adofo-Mensah has shown hesitancy to make long-term commitments to players. Despite the $18 million in salary cap space, the Vikings seem to be willing to keep the majority of it for the next year when the contracts of Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson become more expensive instead of spending it on a safety that demands a record-breaking contract.

Baker and Eckardt each offer worthwhile opinions that deserve consideration. Allow me, though, to take things in a bit of a different direction. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may indeed be interested in adding a defender, but that player is unlikely to be Baker (Budda, not Dustin, though perhaps Dustin has an ability to play safety that we don’t know about). Instead, keep an eye on versatile LB Isaiah Simmons.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) strips Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, I wrote about the idea of adding Simmons. For a ton of reasons, he seems like a strong fit, especially if we’re basing things off of what Kwesi has done since taking over as GM.

Last year, he added Jalen Reagor and Ross Blacklock before the season arrived. Both were highly-selected players who still had time on their rookie deals. He bought low since each had fallen out of favor with their teams, which was reflected in what it cost to bring them to town.

Similarly, Simmons is a buy-low candidate who is still on his rookie deal. Arizona has decided against picking up his 5th-year option, suggesting that they aren’t fully enamored with the linebacker. Meanwhile, Brian Flores covets versatility, something that has become one of Simmons’ defining features. The lack of depth at linebacker and slot corner — where Simmons had 409 snaps last year — makes the Arizona defender a nice fit.

Should Sign Veteran CB
Oct 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Bringing it all together is age. At just 24, Simmons has the capacity to keep growing with the team. He could be grafted into the core that already features Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, and T.J. Hockenson. Might the Vikings re-unite Byron Murphy with Simmons to help get their defense moving in the right direction again?

Keep an eye on Isaiah Simmons, the 8th overall selection in 2020, as the calendar creeps closer to Week 1. Brian Flores loves versatile defenders and Simmons certainly fits the bill. The former Clemson standout is coming in at 6’4″, 238 pounds. He had 99 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 TFLs, 7 PDs, 2 INTs, 2 FFs, 1 FR, and 1 TD last season.

* The Adam Schefter report Moton refers to can be found here.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.