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New Bucs DT Chris Baker brings lighthearted drive to win

Chris Baker’s talent can light up a field, and his personality can light up a locker room. Say hello if you run into him.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Chris Baker’s talent can light up a field, and his personality can light up a locker room. Say hello if you run into him.

TAMPA — The Bucs are excited about what new DT Chris Baker will bring on the field — 9½ sacks, five forced fumbles and 100 tackles the past two years with Washington — and fans will like the lighthearted personality he will bring to the locker room.

"I think I'm a funny guy. I like to dance a lot," Baker said Saturday as he was introduced at One Buc Place after signing a three-year deal reportedly worth $18 million. "But I like to win. … I'm always that guy that plays around probably a little bit too much, but that's just me. I've never been ultraserious."

Baker, 29, can help the Bucs at nose tackle —next to Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy — and at the three-technique when McCoy isn't in the game since Baker's confident he can help against the run and as a pass-rusher. He grew up a Warren Sapp fan, brings a big smile — much like the Bucs great did — and has been known for years as "Swaggy" to his teammates.

"I like to have fun. I have a great personality. I'm easy to talk to," he said. "If you see me on the street, say 'Hello' and I'll say 'Hello' back."

Asked about the biggest influences in his decision to choose the Bucs, Baker half-joked that "it was up to me and my family, and obviously there's no state taxes here." More seriously, he said he's always wanted to move to sunny Florida and to be a part of an "elite" defense. "I love Florida," he said. "I've always said I wanted to make my forever home here. This is what I prayed for, to be here."

Safety dance

By agreeing to terms with Cowboys free agent J.J. Wilcox on a two-year free deal Saturday, the Bucs have set up a three-way competition for the two starting safety jobs in 2017, along with returning players Chris Conte and Keith Tandy.

"He's going to compete for a starting role, along with Chris, along with Keith," GM Jason Licht said. "He's a really hard-hitting, physical player that really still has an upside at safety."

Wilcox, 26, started playing safety in his senior year at Georgia Southern, spending his first two seasons as a receiver and his junior year as a running back. He rushed for 115 yards and two scores against Western Carolina in a 2011 game, then had 88 tackles the next year in his first work at safety.

He was drafted in the third round by the Cowboys, starting 29 of 32 games in 2014-15 and getting career highs of 74 tackles and three interceptions in 2014. He started only four games last season but comes in with a starter's expectations as the highest paid of the three veterans.

One more signing

DT Sealver Siliga, 26, who had five tackles and a sack in six games last season, was brought back. He will battle for the fourth defensive tackle spot behind McCoy, Baker and Clinton McDonald. The Bucs also re-signed DB Josh Robinson to a two-year deal.

They said it

"It's weird that I'm back here, because during the whole (predraft) process (in 2009), my only visit from a team was to Tampa … during the draft process, probably one of the hardest times of my life because I felt like no one wanted me. Turn around eight, nine years, you know, I'm here as a Buccaneer. It can't be a better feeling."

Chris Baker, new Bucs defensive tackle, who went undrafted out of Division I-AA Hampton in 2009

New Bucs DT Chris Baker brings lighthearted drive to win 03/11/17 [Last modified: Saturday, March 11, 2017 10:18pm]
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