Chris Baker not worried about extension, wants to stick at left end

CHANTILLY, Va. -- Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker said he’s in no rush for a contract extension, knowing his play can take care of a new deal. He’s also not in a rush to change positions, even if it’s for only a handful of plays a game.

And, as the Redskins inch closer to the start of offseason workouts, Baker said he’s ready to become more of a leader, with one veteran (Terrance Knighton) gone and another possibly not back (Jason Hatcher).

It’s a big year for Baker, who is entering the final year of his contract.

“I would love to have [an extension],” Baker said in between signing autographs at a card show via The Philadelphia Connection Saturday at the Dulles Expo Center. “But I’ll let the business take care of the business and do what I’ve always done and that’s play hard and play effectively and make plays. When it’s time to talk contract, we’ll get that done.”

One reason the Redskins were not big spenders in free agency was their desire to re-sign a handful of pending 2017 free agents. In addition to Baker, others who have expiring deals include quarterback Kirk Cousins, linebacker Junior Galette, tight end Jordan Reed and receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

Baker is coming off his best season, having won the starting left end job after the fifth game. He finished with six sacks in 10 regular-season starts. The former undrafted free agent with Denver in 2009 began his Redskins career in 2011 on the practice squad.

“It’s a real big year for me,” he said. “I had to work my way through the league and get my opportunity and really take advantage of my opportunity. Coming off the best season I’ve had, I have to keep building forward and continuing to play a lot better than what I did last year, knowing what I’m capable of. I just needed the opportunity and when I got the opportunity I ran with it. Everything is looking on the upward. I’m a hard worker. I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done.”

One of those things he’s done for a while is play left end. He has no desire to play nose tackle, which he did while filling in for Barry Cofield two years ago. At the owners meetings last month, coach Jay Gruden mentioned Baker as a possibility there if they didn’t bring in anyone else.

Baker said, “no, not really” when asked if he’d want to play nose even for 10 plays a game.

“I’ve solidified myself as a good left end,” he said. “So I’d like to stay at my position and use my athleticism to make plays. I’m willing to do what it takes to make sure the team wins, but hopefully they leave me at left end and use the other noses we have or some of the younger guys we’re going to draft. Hopefully we pick up some guys who pick up the system and leave me at end so I don’t have to go back down and take on those double-teams.”

The guy who did that last year, Knighton, signed with New England. Baker pushed hard for the Redskins to re-sign his best friend since childhood.

“It was a childhood dream come true,” Baker said. “But everything happens for a reason. All you can do is wish him the best and hopefully somewhere down the line we can get back together. He’s only on a one-year deal so hopefully the Redskins keep me around a long time and we bring him back.”

If not, Baker is ready to take over some of the leadership role vacated by the absence of Knighton and possibly Hatcher. The Redskins still might re-sign the latter, but if that happens it wouldn’t be until after the draft when they see more of what they still need.

“You lose a lot with those types of guys,” Baker said. “But I learned from day one it’s the next man up. Now it’s time for me to be a better player and a better leader. I’m willing to take on that challenge. My first couple years I had to learn how to lead and I followed a lot of good guys and a lot of guys set a good example for me. Now I’m one of the older guys on the team and I’m ready to lead.”