The Cincinnati Bengals are signing defensive tackle Chris Baker, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Bengals hosted the 6’2”, 320 pound Baker for a free agent visit on Tuesday, less than a month after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because Baker was cut this offseason, he won’t count against potential compensatory picks the Bengals hope to accumulate in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Classified as an eighth-year player in 2018, Baker has had stops with Tampa Bay, Washington, Denver and Miami. The majority of his career was with Washington from 2011-16, during which he appeared in 76 games (42 starts) while recording 181 tackles, 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and five pass deflections.
Baker actually was coached by current Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney in Washington from 2011-2014 and Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett was the defensive coordinator in Washington from 2010-2014. That makes this signing a lot easier to understand as Baker has considerable familiarity with those two coaches.
In 2017, Baker had 33 total tackles, two pass deflections and a half a sack in 15 games (14 starts). In his previous two seasons in Washington (2015-16), Baker recorded 100 total tackles, 9.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 32 games (32 starts).
Baker would go on to sign a free agent deal with Tampa Bay in the 2017 offseason, but he was released after just one season on what was a three year contract worth $15.7 million. Baker allegedly incited a locker room confrontation near the end of the season.
For the Bengals, Baker will likely take the roster spot that was held by Pat Sims last season; a veteran defensive tackle who pushes for the second starting spot next to Geno Atkins. Baker is probably better than Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow right now, though those two should still make the final roster and challenge for that starting spot. While the younger guys are still finding their way in the NFL and have room for improvement, the Bengals likely know who Baker is at this point in his career.