Beleaguered DeAndre Baker may one day get the chance to continue his NFL career, but it will not be with the Giants. Not for the foreseeable future, anyway. A sad chapter for the team and the player ended Tuesday when the Giants waived the young cornerback, one of their 2019 first-round draft picks.
Baker, 22, was on the commissioner’s exempt list, meaning he was on the roster but did not count on the player limit. All summer, he was told to stay away from the team. He is awaiting a Jan. 20 court date in Broward County, Fla. on four counts of armed robbery stemming from a May 13 arrest. He could face life in prison if convicted of all counts.
This parting is no surprise. Last Wednesday, general manager Dave Gettleman said “That’s a fair question’’ when asked if keeping Baker on the team went against his contention that the Giants are serious about improving their culture. Gettleman added, “All I can say to that is in life, there’s timing that’s involved.”
A day later, co-owner John Mara said, “Obviously, it’s something that’s embarrassing to the organization. It’s just something that we’re going to have to deal with. It happens from time to time. Fortunately, 99.9 percent of our players are good citizens. This was one that just we didn’t see coming and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with.’’
Baker did not have any criminal history when the Giants moved up in the 2019 NFL Draft to get him with the No. 30 overall pick. There were some warning signs, though, that Baker was not a hard worker while at Georgia and might not take to hard coaching.
Baker played in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 15, and did not look anything like one of the highest-rated cornerbacks coming out of college. He struggled early and frustrated teammates with a less-than-stellar attitude and work ethic. He improved late in the season, but it was an extremely disappointing NFL debut for a player expected to be a cornerstone on defense.
New head coach Joe Judge inherited Baker on the roster, and the incident in Florida came on Judge’s watch. Judge was certainly not against the Giants getting rid of Baker.
What comes next will be a battle over money. The Giants were not going to keep Baker on the exempt list and pay him for the season. He was scheduled to make $973,442 in salary — to be paid in 17 weekly installments of $57,261 beginning this week. The Giants will try to recoup some of Baker’s guaranteed salary and bonus money on his four-year, $10.5 million contract, citing personal conduct clauses. That is not easy to do.
Baker is alleged to have taken cash and watches from four men at gunpoint while at a party. His attorneys deny all accusations and say Baker is the victim of an extortion claim.
"Did we thoroughly investigate DeAndre’s background? Absolutely,” Gettleman said. “There’s nothing there we didn’t know. But of course, you always go back. It’s no different than a coach when something doesn’t go right. We did that."