Bold Predictions in NFL Free Agency: Packers, Steelers, and the Uncertainty Surrounding Baker Mayfield”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face a difficult off season decision about QB Baker Mayfield. The former No. 1 pick was undeniably productive in 2023, leading Tampa Bay to the postseason in their first campaign post-Tom Brady (we can add a grain of salt and recognize how weak the NFC South is, of course).

After winning the job over Kyle Trask in training camp, Mayfield started all 17 regular season games for the Bucs. He completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns, both career-high numbers. He limited turnovers (10 interceptions) and was a remarkably poised presence compared to his early years in Cleveland.

Now, the Bucs face a choice that could define the next half-decade of the franchise. Mayfield is eligible to hit free agency. Tampa Bay has options, as ESPN’s Dan Graziano succinctly laid out.

“May field’s contract voids if he’s still on the roster 23 days prior to the start of the league year, which gives the Buccaneers the option to franchise him if they so choose. He has played quite well for them and likely — if he hits the market — can look for something along the lines of the Daniel Jones contract ($40 million per year). But the Bucs may decide to keep him around.”

Tampa Bay can either franchise tag Mayfield and retain him on a short-term basis or try their luck in free agency, opting to either negotiate a long-term extension or let Mayfield walk to another contending hopeful. That hope could reside in the Bucs’ own division, as few teams need QB help more than the Atlanta Falcons.

It’s a tightrope for the Bucs to navigate. On one hand, Mayfield was undeniably effective in 2023 and he earned a sizable investment. That said, it’s fair to express skepticism about Mayfield’s ability to sustain his recent success over multiple seasons. He’s not a tier-one star, and he’s probably not the QB to lead Tampa Bay to the promised land.

That shouldn’t necessarily prevent Tampa Bay from bringing Mayfield back — there’s a lot of room for success between 0-16 and Super Bowl champion — but his ceiling as a starting quarterback is hard-capped. Given the exorbitant price of QBs, the Bucs would be justified in any trepidation. Graziano cites the Daniel Jones contract and we all know how that turned out.

The safest bet for Tampa Bay is probably to franchise Mayfield and invest in a young QB to develop on the back burner. Of note, the Bucs own the No. 26 pick in April’s NFL Draft.

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