The Bucs got a bargain this week, adding former fringe franchise quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield for a base deal worth only $4 million.
Mayfield sees it an opportunity far more valuable than that.
Beyond his $4.5 million in incentives (the specific triggers have not yet been revealed), Mayfield sees Tampa as a place where he can win football games — and where he can turn his career around.
Despite Tom Brady being gone, the Buccaneers (as noted by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times) still have plenty of players who were part of the team that won a Super Bowl only 25 months ago.
“That was big in his decision,” agent Tom Mills told Stroud.
Also big was the presence of new offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who was the quarterbacks coach for Geno Smith in 2022, boosting him to the comeback player of the year award.
“It’s the Geno Smith model,” Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken (who was Mayfield’s coordinator in 2019) told Stroud. “He came in and became the starter for one year and then got himself the big three-year contract. Baker wants that opportunity. He saw what Coach Canales did and wants to replicate it and get an opportunity to be a starter again.”
To do that, Mayfield first needs to beat out third-year second-rounder Kyle Trask. Mayfield, who has never lacked in confidence, surely believes he will.
He should be able to do it. In 2018 and 2020, Mayfield played extremely well. In 2021, a shoulder injury suffered while making a tackle (quarterbacks, please don’t make tackles) ruined the season for him and the Browns.
Last year didn’t go well, but how could it? The Browns squatted on him through the offseason program, and he basically split reps with Sam Darnold in Carolina in camp, under a dysfunctional coaching staff whose leader barely made it into October. Mayfield, who witnessed plenty of dysfunction in Cleveland, did a nice job of containing any frustrations he may have had.
Eventually, he landed with the Rams, providing after literally two days on the team one of the most exciting moments of the year in a fourth-quarter comeback from a 16-3 deficit against the Raiders to win the game, 17-16.
Coincidentally, the Buccaneers pulled off an identical feat only three days earlier, beating the Saints while down 16-3 in the fourth quarter. So maybe a little of that Mayfield moxie and magic can help the Buccaneers continue to rule the NFC South — perhaps even with a winning record this year.