Memo to Chris Baker: SHUT UP AND PLAY

By Richard Forestano
Jets Staff Writer
June 17th, 2008
The Jets will be just fine this season whether Chris Baker lines up for them or not. (Jets Photo)
The Jets will be just fine this season whether Chris Baker lines up for them or not. (Jets Photo)
Disgruntled TE Chris Baker was held out of the last day of minicamp due to a back injury that he wouldn’t comment on because of team policy. Interesting. Baker has ripped management recently, then plays the Boy Scout in following a team rule; very interesting. He wasted no time in getting close with the media after the morning practice and stating his opinion of Jets brass.

“I can guarantee you that after this is all said and done, this time next year, someone will be going through the same thing because of the way things are handled here,” Baker said on the practice field at Hofstra. “My advice to guys is that if you’re going to do anything, get it in writing because things may be said with a wink and then the next thing you know they claim that something was misconstrued. This is three times and it’s going to continue to happen.”

This sounds too much like last summer when OG Pete Kendall was involved in a similar standoff with Gang Green. That ended in no new deal for the veteran guard and a trade to the Washington Redskins. Does Baker deserve a new deal? Is he worthy of money that would put him in the upper echelon of the highest paid tight ends?

Baker wants number one money. To do a comparison, take Indianapolis Colts TE Dallas Clark. In 2007, Clark had 58 catches (7th), 616 yards (8th) and 11 touchdowns (1st). He got a new deal last February that made him one of the highest paid TE’s in the NFL.

Baker has said on countless occasions that he was told that if he produced, he would receive a new deal. Bakers’ stats were a far cry from a new deal, where he had 41 catches (19th) for 409 yards (18th) and three touchdowns (16th). Yes, Clark only had 17 more receptions and had perennial QB Peyton Manning throwing to him. He also had more than capable receivers in Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez opening up seams due to double teams.

However, numbers don’t lie and Bakers’ stats unveil an unquestionable truth; he didn’t produce. There’s no question that Baker is their most reliable TE even with his sub-par 2007 season, but with rookie TE Dustin Keller shining during rookie minicamp and OTA’s, and with Bubba Franks in the mix, I think Baker may not be around much longer as long as Franks stays healthy. Franks could fill the blocking void if Baker is traded or released.

Baker was firing on all cylinders Friday morning, talking about issues like his current contract. He rehashed on why he fired his previous agent, Cliff Brady.

“A big part of it is because of the deal that I’m in,” he said. “I didn’t feel like he really prepared me for free agency with it being my first time in free agency. I just wasn’t happy with my deal.”

Baker went on to say that the fans may have a hard time understanding what’s going on because of things like the labor agreement and he doesn’t like that. Sounds like a man running out of ideas.

I don’t think the fans worry about the labor agreement, unless a strike is on the horizon. The fans worry about their favorite players being out there and making plays on Sunday.

He said that the fans may feel that, “This is their livelihood, this is their job,” he said. “If I’m your number one guy then pay me like your number one guy.”

Baker touched on a lunch meeting that he had with Eric Mangini not too long ago.

“Me and him [Mangini] have a decent relationship and he’s really trying separate himself from what’s going on,” Baker said. “He sent me some texts to sit down and talk. So I was thinking that maybe we could go this route as far as at least coming to an agreement on what to do.

According to Baker, the texts were sent over a two day period about three weeks ago. It was right before OTA’s started.

“It was more like him giving me the playbook so that I don’t get behind,” he said. “I was like okay it really wasn’t what I came for but I have respect for him. The lunch didn’t really get anything accomplished as far as what I was looking to get accomplished.”

Baker feels that the organization has gone out and got a bunch of great players to set the table for a good season and doesn’t want this contract dispute to hang over the organizations heads.

“I’m pretty sure he [Mangini] doesn’t want this hanging over like it did last year,” Baker said. “Like I said we have a great relationship, but at the same time I think if he really wanted to have something to get done, he would being that he has some kind of influence being the head coach. “I don’t know how much input or control he has.”

Baker was glad that Mangini reached out to him personally and kept the lines of communication open, but….

“I would like for him to keep the lines of communication open with Mike,” he said. “I was glad he took the time to have lunch with me, but we really didn’t move forward with anything.”

The Jets moved $700,000 of the 2008 salary into the 2007. Some would perceive that as a good gesture by the Jets.

“I guess you could perceive it that way, but it was more beneficial to the team,” Baker said of his advance. “They asked me to do it and I agreed”

Recently, GM Mike Tannenbaum disputed his contention that he was promised a new deal.

“If you want to believe that, you can,” Baker said. “There would be no reason for me to come out and lie. (My former agent) told me that Mike said, ‘Go out and have a good year and we’ll talk.’ How much can you misconstrue that? But there’s been no talking. It has been, ‘No, we don’t want to do anything.” When questioned about whether or not Mangini could intervene on Bakers behalf, he was very discreet and said, “I’m pretty confident in Mike.”

He then went on to say how Mangini and Tannenbaum work together in some sort of way.

“We talk about things and give each other feedback and we have a great relationship,” he said.

Mangini doesn’t feel that this will affect the team as a whole.

“I don’t think one guy can affect the group,” Mangini said. “With the guys we have and the coaches we have, it’s not a reality.”

This will affect the group. Baker’s comments put unwarranted spotlights on the offense, the tight end position and the organization. Even though one man isn’t an island, it’s a testament to how Baker presents himself and how he’s being perceived by the media and Jets fans. Did he get stiffed? Did Baker get an offer he couldn’t refuse, but was not put in writing?

Chris Baker is not to the offense what Pete Kendall was and although the team surely learned a lesson from that debacle last year, they can afford to call the TE’s bluff and will be just fine without him if he’s not there. His production by no means will make or break this team. Do yourself a favor Chris…keep quiet and have a great season then everything will take care of itself. Whining now only make you look foolish. You are in no position to even attempt to hold the team hostage.

On a side note, according to Baker, the unnamed restaurant paid for the lunch meeting.

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