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NFL exec reveals Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ plan with Baker Mayfield, insight into huge contract negotiations

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed one of the biggest bargains in NFL free agency last year with quarterback Baker Mayfield. After enjoying the Pro Bowl passer on a team-friendly, one-year contract in 2023, the Buccaneers’ front office needs to be prepared for a far more expensive quarterback in 2024.

Mayfield signed a prove-it deal with Tampa Bay in an attempt to rebuild his value. With few starting opportunities around the NFL, he took a chance on the Buccaneers’ offense with an opportunity to start for a competitive team. It all worked out as the 28-year-old led Tampa Bay to the NFL playoffs and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.

  • Baker Mayfield stats 2023: 4,044 passing yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, 28-10 TD-INT, 64.3% completion rate, 94.6 QB rating

Related: Surprise NFL team may challenge Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Baker Mayfield

While the deal worked out beautifully for both sides, the Buccaneers also put themselves in a spot where they had no long-term security over Mayfield if he had a breakout season. With several quarterback-needy teams around the league, the Buccaneers’ front office could be challenged for the young quarterback. However, there appears to be some belief around the NFL that Tampa Bay won’t let him hit the open market.

Speaking to Ari Meirov of The 33rd Team, multiple people around the NFL said they believe the Buccaneers will use the franchise tag on Mayfield if the two sides can’t agree to a long-term deal. However, one NFL executive suggested Tampa Bay may allow Mayfield to test the open market with the rationale that he won’t find a better offer elsewhere.

“Would any other team offer Mayfield, let’s say, a three-year, $110 million contract on the open market? If Tampa believes that answer is no, they could take their time with this just like Seattle did with Smith.”

Anonymous NFL executive on how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may approach Baker Mayfield contract talks

Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft picks 2024

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers cap space 2024: $36.891 million in cap space

The issue with the franchise tag for the Buccaneers is what comes with it. Current estimates have the 2024 franchise tag for quarterbacks valued at $35.952 million. It would all be fully guaranteed, eating up almost all of Tampa Bay’s existing cap space this offseason.

However, extending Mayfield’s contract before he becomes a free agent or even allowing him to test the open market creates more flexibility. The Buccaneers could then use the franchise tag on safety Antoine Winfield Jr. ($17.22 million estimated value) and hope to re-sign Mayfield to a multi-year deal that is more cap-friendly in 2024. While an official decision hasn’t been made, it’s clear many around the NFL believe Mayfield will be the Buccaneers quarterback in 2024.

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