GM: Bucs must plan for possibility QB Baker Mayfield leaves

Jan 15, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of a 2024 NFC wild card game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield can begin exploring other options in free agency on Monday, and general manager Jason Licht is preparing to do the same.

Mayfield flourished in 2023 under offensive coordinator Dave Canales, leading Tampa Bay to the NFC South division crown and a wild-card playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, a boatload of free agents left Licht with frayed priorities and limited funds, especially after using the franchise tag to retain safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and signing free-agent-to-be Mike Evans to a two-year deal.

Mayfield passed for 4,044 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the 2023 regular season. He had a pair of 300-yard games in the playoffs, putting up 337 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia and 349-3 with two interceptions at Detroit in a 31-23 loss during the divisional playoff round.

Licht remains optimistic the Buccaneers can bring Mayfield back but understands the reality of their predicament.

“As Bruce (Arians) would say, look behind Door No. 2, 3 and 4 and 5. We always feel like we need options,” Licht said Friday.

Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, had played for three teams since 2021 (Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams) before he signed a one-year deal in free agency last March.

The Bucs are in active talks with linebacker Lavonte David, another free agent, Licht said.

Evans signed his $52 million deal that runs through 2025 on Friday and gave his two cents on the quarterback situation.

“I think he’s an elite quarterback,” Evans said of Mayfield, assessing his confidence Mayfield will be his quarterback in 2024. “I’m extremely confident. I’m not 100 percent, but he played really great for us last year. The city took him in, the players loved him. Hopefully we get him back, but he should do what’s best for him.”

–Field Level Media

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