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Baker Mayfield Buccaneers

Is This Baker Mayfield’s Last Chance As An NFL Starter?

  • Justin Melo
  • March 15, 2023
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are signing free-agent quarterback Baker Mayfield to a one-year contract worth up to $8.5 million, according to multiple reports. Mayfield is now expected to compete for Tampa Bay’s starting job alongside Kyle Trask. This represents the last opportunity for Mayfield to maintain an NFL starting role.

Trask will receive an opportunity to compete, but Mayfield instantly becomes the favorite to start under center in Week 1. The Buccaneers were always expected to sign a veteran quarterback this offseason following the retirement of Tom Brady. Difficulties against the 2023 salary cap limited Tampa Bay’s options, and general manager Jason Licht ultimately identified Mayfield as an ideal but realistic option.

The last few seasons have been a rollercoaster for Mayfield. The former No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield went through a public breakup with the Cleveland Browns following their acquisition of Deshaun Watson. The Browns then honored Mayfield’s trade request by dealing him to the Carolina Panthers ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Mayfield defeated Sam Darnold for the starting job in Carolina, but that may have been the high point of Mayfield’s tenure in Carolina. Mayfield was benched on several occasions and only made seven regular-season appearances for the Panthers, throwing just six touchdowns and six interceptions.

Mayfield was granted a release from the Panthers in early December and managed to rehabilitate his reputation after being claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams. Mayfield led the Rams to a dominant 51-14 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 16 while completing 24 of 28 pass attempts for 230 yards and throwing for two touchdowns. Mayfield now hit free agency with some new-found momentum under his belt.

For all of Tampa Bay’s financial difficulties that led to parting ways with starting offensive pieces such as Leonard Fournette, Shaq Mason, and Donovan Smith, Mayfield is inheriting a pretty solid supporting cast. At receiver, Mayfield should enjoy the best one-two punch he’s ever encountered in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Mayfield should enjoy getting the ball to Evans and Godwin.

The Buccaneers also roster several ascending offensive pieces that will grow into larger roles in 2023. Sophomore running back Rachaad White could command a three-down role moving forward. White accounted for nearly 800 yards of total offense in 2022 and no longer has to battle for playing time alongside Fournette.

There’s also second-year tight end Cade Otton, who figures to replace another recently released veteran, Cameron Brate. Otton finished the season strong with a four-catch, 58-yard performance in Tampa Bay’s postseason defeat to the Dallas Cowboys. Otton is a starting-caliber tight end that can block, run and catch. Ko Kieft also returns as a high-level blocking tight end.

New offensive coordinator Dave Canales is expected to install a run-heavier scheme. Head coach Todd Bowles gets to build the Buccaneers’ offense in his image following Brady’s departure. Tampa isn’t expected to ask Mayfield to carry the offense on his back, which could help him enjoy success as a game manager.

Mayfield was ultimately wasteful with his opportunities in Cleveland and Carolina. A short stint in Los Angeles alongside Sean McVay threw Mayfield a lifeline. It’s truly sink-or-swim for Baker Mayfield in Tampa Bay.

Written By

Justin Melo