Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger of the Arizona Cardinals are two of the National Football League’s most underrated safeties
Late last December, the Arizona Cardinals’ ugly 2018 campaign was almost over. Just one game remained in what was quite possibly the worst season in the club’s history. It was time for Cards’ general manager Steve Keim to start looking ahead, and he started that process by making a nifty acquisition on Christmas Day.
Arizona added a piece for 2019 when they plucked D.J. Swearinger off of the waiver wire. The hard-hitting safety had been released by the Washington Redskins just the day before, and Keim pounced. Swearinger had performed well in the nation’s capital, but was apparently a bit too outspoken for the Redskins’ brass.
The Cardinals viewed Swearinger as a nice compliment to an up and coming player they already had at the position. Budda Baker, the squad’s second-round draft pick in 2017, had been outstanding in his own right. The youngster had worked his way into a starting role with the Cards, and Keim was obviously excited by the thought of pairing him with the veteran Swearinger.
Arizona, as it turns out, was already extremely familiar with Swearinger. The 27-year old had previously spent time in the desert (2015-16), and had apparently left a good impression. Swearinger had tallied 71 tackles, three interceptions, nine passes defensed and two sacks in 20 appearances (13 starts) for the Cardinals.
The former University of South Carolina product left at the end of 2016, signing as a free agent with Washington. The contract was for $13.5 million, with $6 million of that amount to be paid in the first year. Swearinger proved to be worthy of the money, racking up 132 tackles, eight picks and 20 pass breakups in 31 starts for the ‘Skins.
Baker has been just as magnificent in his two campaigns with the Cards. The 23-year old has registered 160 tackles, eight passes defensed and three sacks in 30 appearances (20 starts) for the organization. Baker displayed his superb athleticism in a matchup last season with the Minnesota Vikings, when he scooped up a fumble and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
Arizona’s front office has done an excellent job with putting together their defensive backfield for the upcoming schedule. Keim and company actually moved up during the ’17 draft to land Baker, and the Swearinger pickup was a savvy maneuver. The results of their efforts will be on full display when the talented safety tandem hits the playing field this fall.