The Redskins defensive end finished his fifth season in the league to become an unrestricted free agent, but said he'd like to extend his career in Washington.
For the first time in his professional career, Chris Baker is set to become an unrestricted free agent once the new league year begins in about seven weeks. But the veteran defensive end would rather have his long-term future secured with the Redskins than face the uncertainty of free agency.
"It's a little difficult for me being that it is a contract year for me," Baker said of the season. "But I went out each and every week and put it out all on the line, and hopefully everything works out and I can stay here and be a Redskin and retire a Redskin. But we just don't know what's going to happen, we'll see what happens in this free agency period."
Baker is no stranger to the unpredictable nature of the NFL. The Hampton graduate went undrafted in 2009 and bounced around on the Broncos' and Dolphins' practice squads before latching onto the Redskins two years later. Washington signed him twice as a restricted free agent before the 2013 season and then again to a three-year contract the next year, where he finally stepped into a leadership role.
"I learned [the business] the first day, before I even got to the NFL when I thought I was going to be a draft pick and went undrafted," Baker said. "I've just worked myself up the depth chart each and every year, and just continue to try and improve myself each and every year. Ever since I got a chance, I have shown what type of player I can be. I think I've done a really good job over the past couple years and playing at a high level. So we'll see what happens."
Baker broke out in 2015, playing in all 16 games and starting 10, accomplishing career highs in tackles (53) and sacks (6) while forcing three fumbles, helping lead the team to an NFC East division championship.
This season, as the leader of a veteran group along the defensive line, Baker started in all 16 games, showing off his consistency over the last few seasons, and fighting through some small injuries when he had to. He finished the year with 47 tackles and 3.5 sacks within a defense that struggled to get off the field on third down and provide a consistent pass rush.
"We just have to fix the little things, people being where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there, making the tackles when supposed to make them, and getting off the field and not allowing teams to drive the ball on us," Baker said. "On third and long situations, there was too many times where third and 12 and teams would find a way to pick up 14 yards. That's not always on coaching, just got to get better as individuals and working together, just go out there and making plays."
The defensive line will likely be a priority for the Redskins' front office to bolster this offseason, whether through the draft of free agency, but undrafted rookie Anthony Lanier II was one younger player made a strong impression in his limited opportunities on the field.
The Alabama A&M product played in four games before a leg injury in Dallas sent him to Injured Reserve. If he has the opportunity to return, Baker would continue to be a mentor for him considering Lanier's path has similar roots.
"He's a really great player, he has a lot of upside, he's got to continue to get better each and every week," Baker said of Lanier. "I told him, being an undrafted guy, you're always expendable, they can always get rid of you. You can't really ever be relaxed, you have to bring you're 'A' game each and every week to practice, and when given the chance to go out in the game, you got to show your worth and see how good of a player you are. I've been able to take that motto each and every year."
Baker hopes to continue showing his worth in Washington, but admits that the prospect of free agency has been enticing as he's looked back on his journey and calculates his opportunities in the future.
"I think I played well this season, and we'll see what happens," Baker said. "I would love to stay here as a Redskin, but at the end of the day I have to do what's best for my family. We'll see what happens, what the numbers will be, and hopefully I'll be back."