No matter how hard the Buccaneers tried to convince us that they would start Kyle Trask at quarterback, they would inevitably add someone to the mix. Baker Mayfield has experienced all the highs and lows of being an NFL quarterback. He was the first overall pick in Cleveland just five years ago, and he's now playing for his fourth team in two years. Tampa Bay has the weapons to make this work, but Mayfield needs to improve his game.
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Tampa Bay brings Mayfield in on a one-year, $8.5 million contract. This deal screams low-risk for the Buccaneers and prove-it for Mayfield.
Replacing Tom Brady is no easy task; just ask Mac Jones, but that is the goal in Tampa Bay for Mayfield. Step one will be to beat out Kyle Trask for the job. Trask was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft but didn't appear in a game until 2022. He has thrown just nine passes in his career. That limited experience, combined the change in offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, means Trask does not have much of a head start on Mayfield.
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It would be easy to write Mayfield off after a disappointing end to his time in Cleveland and a disastrous stint in Carolina, but he ended 2022 on a relative high note. After being ousted by the Panthers, Mayfield signed with the Rams and immediately became the starter in a very-injured quarterback room. In five games with the Rams, Mayfield threw for 950 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed 63.5% of his passes, and the Rams notched two of their five wins with Mayfield at quarterback.
In Tampa Bay, the pieces are in place for a solid offense, assuming they don't fire sale away their receivers. They have certified stars in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, plus quality complementary pieces in Russell Gage and 2022 rookies Rachaad White and Cade Otton. While confidence was low on these players heading into the season with Trask, Mayfield should improve that, if only slightly.
This move likely bodes best for Godwin. Mayfield has struggled to connect with deep-play wide receivers over his career. He rarely got on the same page with Odell Beckham in Cleveland, and D.J. Moore had his best games last year after Mayfield was released. Godwin and Gage tend to play close to the line of scrimmage, and Baker should lean on them. Godwin could come close to repeating the season he had with Brady last year, which led to a WR18 finish in 15 games. On the other hand, Mike Evans could struggle and is in jeopardy of ending his 1000-yard season streak. Mayfield has only supported two 1000-yard receivers in his career, Beckham and Jarvis Landry, both in 2019.
Seeing the Rams bring Mayfield back would not have been a surprise. So far this offseason, we've heard retirement and trade rumors surrounding the 35-year-old Matt Stafford. Injuries plagued him, and Mayfield won as many games as Stafford as a Ram last year in just five games played.
You're not downgrading anyone in Los Angeles due to the loss of Mayfield, but the Rams better bring a quality backup in as insurance after the way 2022 played out.
Let's start with the caveat: Baker Mayfield needs to beat Kyle Trask. Then, if the Buccaneers keep Evans and Godwin, there is some sleeper upside here. This team has produced a top-12 fantasy quarterback in each of the last four seasons. Albeit with different coaches and the greatest quarterback to play football, but the opportunity is there. Evans and Godwin are as talented as Mayfield has played with in his career. He was the QB20 in 2019 while throwing for 3827 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he also threw 21 interceptions that season. If Mayfield can cut the turnovers and utilize his receivers, he could have top-15 upside in 2023.