Bucs begin talks to re-sign Baker Mayfield, and they will resume at the NFL Combine

TAMPA — Practices and interviews with college stars will begin at the NFL's annual scouting meet next week in Indianapolis.

But it's what happens in the bars and steakhouses downtown that will determine the course of the Bucs next season.

This is where general manager Jason Licht will meet with agents for key players like quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Mike Evans and/or safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Although nothing is imminent, the Bucs and Mayfield have had some initial conversations about a new contract. Licht is expected to meet with Mayfield's agent, Tom Mills, next week. Both sides have expressed interest in reaching an agreement for Mayfield to return to Tampa Bay.

Mayfield racked up a career-high 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns last season while leading the Bucs to their third straight NFC South title. He led Tampa Bay to a win over Philadelphia in the wild-card round and came within a final-minute drive in Detroit of advancing to the NFC Championship game.

While Mayfield has reclaimed the reputation he built by winning the Heisman Trophy and being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he is looking for stability after playing for four teams in less than two years.

The Bucs and head coach Todd Bowles want to build on Mayfield's success and provide some continuity. After losing offensive coordinator Dave Canales to the Panthers (where he became the head coach), Tampa Bay hired Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Quinn, who worked with Mayfield for five games with the Rams at the end of the 2022 season.

Mayfield prefers to stay in Tampa Bay because he believes that gives him the best chance to win. But the Bucs could face some competition if Mayfield hits free agency in March.

One team that has been reported as a potential suitor is the Patriots. Many members of their organization — including scouting director Elliott Wolff, front office executive Alonzo Highsmith, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and quarterbacks coach TC McCartney — once worked for the Browns and like Mayfield.

See also  LeBron James explains the game winner's miss against the Rockets

Of course, Mayfield has said he wants to play for a winner, and the Patriots are in rebuilding mode with new coach Jerrod Mayo. New England also has the No. 3 overall pick in a fertile quarterback draft.

Ultimately, Mayfield wants fair market value after earning just over $6 million with performance bonuses last season.

How much could he bring in free agency?

The Bucs would likely be willing to give him the equivalent of a franchise player value of $36.3 million but are not expected to use that designation on him. In fact, $40 million per year may seem high for Mayfield, but he could fall into the top 15 highest-paid quarterbacks once other veteran deals are in place.

Stay up to date on the Tampa Bay sports scene

Sign up for our free Sports Today newsletter

We'll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida college football teams daily.

You're all signed up!

Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let's get started.

Explore all your options

Winfield would be a prime candidate for the franchise player tag if the Bucs use it, because it would only count $16.2 million against the salary cap.

Evans' status is somewhat uncertain. While he wanted to stay with the Bucs, he gave them a chance to extend his contract before the start of the 2023 season. When that didn't happen, all talks stalled. Evans tallied 1,255 yards and tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchdowns.

The Bucs have until March 5 at 4pm to decide whether to use their franchise player tag, which does not preclude continuing to negotiate a long-term deal. The legal negotiating period for free agents runs from March 11 at noon to March 13 at 4 p.m., and players can agree to new deals, but they do not become official until the start of the new league year on March 13 at 4 p.m., when free agency occurs. Begins.

See also  How much can LeBron James affect son Bronney's stock in the NBA? And maybe more than you thought

Here are some things to watch for while collecting.

Licht and Boles speak Tuesday

Bucs general manager Jason Licht is expected to meet with Baker Mayfield's agent, Tom Mills, next week in Indianapolis.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht is expected to meet with Baker Mayfield's agent, Tom Mills, next week in Indianapolis. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The Bucs GM and head coach have not had media availability since the 2023 season ended, and Bowles has added several new assistant coaches on offense as well as a special teams coordinator.

In addition to providing an update on their attempts to re-sign Mayfield, Evans and Winfield, Tristan Wirfs is entering his final year under contract and is scheduled to play under his $18.22 million club option on a one-year deal. Extending Wirfs could be something the Bucs address before or during the 2024 season.

The Bucs have just over $48 million in cap space, According to Spotrac. They can create more by releasing some veteran players.

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett and cornerback Carlton Davis could be candidates. The Bucs' major potential free agents also include linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David, kicker Chase McLaughlin, guard Aaron Stinney, defensive back DeDelaney, running back Chase Edmonds and defensive lineman William Gholston. A year ago, they released Leonard Fournette during the combine.

There is a Bucs flavor to the NFC South

Raheem Morris was the Bucs' head coach from 2009-11, and it took years for one of the best defensive minds in the NFL to get another chance to lead the team.
Raheem Morris was the Bucs' head coach from 2009-11, and it took years for one of the best defensive minds in the NFL to get another chance to lead the team. [ BRYNN ANDERSON | AP ]

This will be a coming out party for two new head coaches in the NFC South: Raheem Morris in Atlanta and Canales in Carolina.

Morris was the Bucs' head coach from 2009-11, and it took years for one of the best defensive minds in the NFL to get another opportunity to lead the team. The Falcons also need a quarterback, and Morris has become tight with Mayfield during their time with the Rams.

See also  Youth shines in preseason win against Lakers - NBC Sports Bay Area and California

Canales took several Tampa Bay assistants with him to Carolina and enjoyed a meteoric rise from Seattle's passing game coordinator to head coach in less than a calendar year. He has an intimate working knowledge of the Bucs and their staff, which could be an asset during free agency.

Three players the Bucs will be monitoring closely

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. could be gone long before the Bucs pick at No. 26.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. could be gone long before the Bucs pick at No. 26. [ DAVID BECKER | AP ]

1. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: Penix is ​​already among Bruce Arians' favorite quarterbacks in the draft because of his ability to throw the football down the field. The problem is, he could be gone before the Bucs pick 26th. In a weird way, they have to hope some club is scared off by the medical reports, which include two torn ACLs.

2. Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky: Quinn is familiar with the Wildcats' return, having coached them for one season. Davis was very productive, rushing for 1,129 yards and 14 touchdowns while catching 33 passes for 323 yards and seven TDs. He's got decent size (5-10, 216 lbs), and the Bucs need an RB2 with Edmonds hitting free agency.

3. Tony Franklin, WR, Oregon State: New Bucs receivers coach Brian McLendon only coached Franklin in his first year with the Ducks. But with Evans' status up in the air and Chris Godwin in the final year of his contract, it's time to address the situation in a big way. Franklin has great size (6-3, 185) and had 81 catches for 1,383 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss the latest news on your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Instagram, X And Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *