KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs bolstered their secondary on Thursday by signing cornerback Deandre Baker, a premium talent coming out of college and 2019 first-round pick of the New York Giants.
The Chiefs signed Baker to the practice squad, and if he lives up to his skillset, he’ll help round out a secondary that’s still missing the services of injured rookie L’Jarius Sneed, who showed flashes of brilliance before breaking his collarbone. The Chiefs are currently eighth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, surrendering a stingy 215.7 on average.
Baker won the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior at Georgia in 2018, given to college’s top defensive back, and was teammates with current Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman. Aside from the Thorpe award, he was a first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC.
Off the field trouble led to his ouster from New York, where he was expected to start in 2020 before an August armed robbery arrest led to his release right before the season began.
Baker and current Seattle Seahawks corner Quinton Dunbar were involved in an alleged armed robbery in Florida, but have since each had charges against them dropped.
Baker and Dunbar were at a house party where several people said they stole thousands of dollars in cash as well as watches while armed with weapons, according to an arrest warrant.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Broward County Prosecutor Paul R. Valcore said in a statement that the alleged victims’ credibility “is unalterably tarnished,” making the prosecution of Baker impossible.
Adding to the saga, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrested an attorney for the alleged victims, who is now facing extortion charges.
The sheriff’s office says William Dean told Baker’s attorney that the three alleged victims would stop cooperating with prosecutors or change their stories if they were paid more than $250,000 each. Investigators say Dean said his clients would “do anything you want, so long as the money is right.”
Free from his legal dilemma, Baker didn’t take long to pick the Chiefs as his landing spot. Reporters asked Andy Reid about Baker’s possible addition during media availability on Wednesday. The coach mostly deferred to GM Brett Veach and gave this statement:
Baker started 15 of 16 games his rookie season, and struggled at times. Opposing quarterbacks targeted him 88 times, completing 54 of those passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns. However, the Giants struggled as a whole on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, ranking 28th in pass defense.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo touched on Baker’s rookie campaign during his media availability on Thursday.
“Yeah, I’m not aware of the struggles. I wouldn’t dive into that. I mean, Brett and his staff have been all over that thing, and any time we can add a good football player, I think that’s a good thing,” Spagnuolo said.
“Anybody that comes in here, look, we start from scratch, we try to take the tools they have and make them better.”
This is the second time in the midst of the 2020 season the Chiefs have plucked someone who previously played on a New York roster. The Chiefs signed former Jets running back Le’Veon Bell in October after he was released.
The former All-Pro hasn’t surpassed rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s role on offense, but like Baker, represents an upgrade in talent as the Chiefs position themselves for another playoff run in defense of their Super Bowl title.