Baker Mayfield is one of several established veteran quarterbacks in 2023 NFL free agency, and while he may not be at the top of that list, the one-time Heisman Trophy winner is still likely to garner strong interest on the open market.
Beyond possible superstars like Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson potentially being up for grabs on the trade market, there are quite a few talented QBs that could be available in free agency. Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, and Jimmy Garoppolo are the names that could lead the post-franchise tag market, but Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers veteran Baker Mayfield will also be available on the free-agent market.
Mayfield has certainly hurt his value with his play over the last couple of seasons, and won’t be given a starting job next season, but a case can be made that he still has upside if put in the right situation.
The 27-year-old did lead the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020, and after a rough showing with the Panthers in the first half of 2022, Mayfield showed some flashes of his potential in a five-game stint with the Los Angeles Rams.
For teams that will be giving a heavy amount of snaps to a young QB in 2023, Mayfield could serve as a worthwhile safety net to relieve those prospects if they run into some hurdles, or serve as a placeholder as they develop. With that in mind, here are four teams Baker Mayfield could join in NFL free agency.
Las Vegas Raiders
While the Las Vegas Raiders have been linked to a potential trade for Rodgers, the team’s general manager made it clear recently that they are also open to a veteran placeholder in the short term, and Baker Mayfield may be a strong option.
The Raiders have the seventh pick in this year’s draft and could select Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, two prospects that might be better off being slowly brought along instead of forced into a Week 1 role. It makes Mayfield that much more of a worthwhile option for their short-term outlook.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin their post-Tom Brady era in 2023, and the organization has quickly thrown their support behind 2022 second-round pick Kyle Trask as their likely starter next season. However, the team’s general manager also confirmed they plan to sign a veteran quarterback this offseason.
For a cash-strapped team like Tampa Bay, Baker Mayfield makes a lot of sense since he will be a victim of a strong market for QBs this spring and could be had for an affordable rate and serve as a high-level safety net if Trask isn’t up to the task of starting.
The Houston Texans are expected to take either Bryce Young or CJ Stroud with their selection in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The expectation would be for either QB to be the team’s starter in Week 1. However, first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans could be in no rush to throw a young signal-caller to the wolves right away and is likely to want a proven veteran on the roster.
Baker Mayfield makes sense at a cost far lower than Derek Carr or Daniel Jones and does not require giving up draft assets like a trade for Rodgers or Jackson would require.
The Indianapolis Colts will certainly be taking a top QB prospect in April’s event and could possibly trade up to snag the Chicago Bears’ top pick. However, they still need strong replacement options in case their first-round QB gets hurt or isn’t ready to start in the league right away.
Indianapolis would be a perfect landing spot for Mayfield under a one-year pact, since there is solid talent on offense, and if he can shine in training camp and possibly win the starting job, the weapons in Indy could be a way for him to increase his value and jump back into NFL free agency in 2024.