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What? No Love for Budda?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

In recent weeks, Budda Baker has been a glaring omission from some pundits’ top NFL safety rankings.

There is no excuse as to how or why.

First of all, being named to 3 NFL All Pro teams and 5 Pro Bowls in 6 seasons places Budda Baker in elite company at the safety position.

Ask Budda’s NFC West opponents which defenders in the division are their biggest nemeses, and Budda Baker is always the first or one of the first mentioned. On every snap, the first thing that opponents want to know is “where is Budda”?

49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan says of Budda, “he’s the best in the NFL now at not taking false steps.”

Few players in the NFL make TEs and WRs hear footsteps louder than Budda Baker’s.

Some claim that 2022 was an off year for Budda. Oh, really?

The week-to-week video evidence on HBO’s Arizona Cardinals In-Season Hard Knocks proves otherwise.

As does this video:

PFF concurs.

Budda’s 73.5 overal grade was the highest of all the Cardinals’ defensive players and was 8th in the NFL for safeties playing over 900 snaps. His 80.2 run-defense grade was 3rd best in the NFL for safeties who played more than 900 snaps.

Think about this —- Budda is #3 in the NFL in run defense in a year after he was strapped to a gurney. loaded into an ambulance and rushed to a LA hospital for making a big-time stick on Rams’ RB Cam Akers in the 3rd quarter of a playoff game completely dominated by the Rams.

At the time of Budda’s scary head injury, the Cardinals were down 28-8. But, Budda was not going to give the Rams another inch, not if he could help it,

Thankfully, Budda didn’t suffer extensive head or neck injuries. But, scary knock-out concussions like the one Budda suffered can alter the trajectory of a player’s career.

Yet, heading into the 2022 season, unlike a significant number of his Cardinals teammates, Budda chose to attend OTAs. And when the season started, he showed absolutely no lingering mental or physical effects from such a traumatic injury.

Think about this —- Budda Baker has no “off” button. Unlike a number of the Cardinals’ defenders over the past few decades, Budda Baker only knows how to play one way.

Some claim and insist that Budda’s is a liability in pass coverage. Not according to PFF, who graded Budda’s coverage at 69.1 —- which actually is an achievement unto itself —- considering Vance Joseph’s obsession with playing soft Cover 3 zones more than any team in the NFL (as aptly pointed out and scrutinized by Brett Kollmann and E.J. Snyder in their Cardinals preview that was published yesterday).

With Budda Baker, his Cardinals’ teammates are getting an all-out baller and a charismatic leader and a rare player who gives his all on every snap.

CBS Sports concurs.

Here are their Top 10 safety rankings heading into the 2023 training camps:

Budda is right where he belongs.

4. Budda Baker

ARI • SS • #3

Budda Baker is as good as gets among strong safeties in the NFL. He totaled the fourth-highest run-stop rate (6.1%) and ranked third in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage (eight) among safeties in 2022. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro plays like he’s on fire at all times, sprinting from sideline to sideline to snuff plays out before they can even get started. Baker may have an opportunity to shine even brighter in 2023, should the tanking Arizona Cardinals opt to grant his trade demands.

Why the best of Budda very well may be ahead of him:

At the University of Washington, Budda, under the tutelage of Jimmy Lake, was taugh to master the safety position.. What Budda learned from Coach Lake has helped carry him to his All Pro success, despite the fact that, in 6 seasons playing for 3 different DCs, he has not as yet played for an NFL DC who has a track record for consistent success.

This year, barring a trade or prolonged holdout from the star safety, per the advice of his agent, JG and Nick Rallis could have the unique opportunity to take Budda Baker’s game to a higher level.

JG did wonders for last season for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (who had been struggling for three years with the Saints), helping to turn him into a bona fide playmaker (which landed him a one year $8M (maximum value) contract with the Lions this off-season).

Imagine, then, what JG can do with Budda Baker —- who brings a fierceness, diversified skillset and tenacity to the position that CGJ and most NFL safeties can only imagine.

The Rain Song

This Led Zeppelin cover written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and performed here brilliantly by Chiara Klichling, expresses the dichotomy of angst and hope I have been feeling over Budda’s holdout and trade demands.

These are the seasons of emotion

And like the wind, they rise and fall

This is the wonder of devotion

I see the torch

We all must hold

This is the mystery of the quotient, quotient

Upon us all, upon us all, a little rain must fall...