Buccaneers Re-Sign or Let Walk: Baker Mayfield


As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into the offseason we will be going over each potential free agent the team needs to make a decision on. Do the Pewter Pirates “Re-Sign or Let Walk” will be a series of articles analyzing who we think will/should stay and who will be let go to test the free agent market. Up next, quarterback Baker Mayfield.

After being written off, underrated, and marked as damaged goods Baker Mayfield came back with vengeance. Shutting down the doubters and proving he’s a starter in this league Baker finds himself a free agent. This leaves the Buccaneers with a huge decision to make. One that means opening up the bank and setting the quarterback situation strait for the next three to four years.


Currently Spotrac has Baker valued at a four year $108 million dollar contract. A seemingly fair valuation putting him squarely in the $27 million dollar a year range. For that number two key players are used to compare and create this valuation. Those are Geno Smith’s and his three year $75 million dollar contract and Jimmy Garoppolo’s 3 year $72 million dollar contract. Fair comparison in terms of a comeback player at quarterback but I feel this valuation is lower than he’ll be offered if he hits free agency. Especially once you look at the trajectory of all three players.

Geno Smith Model

First, when looking at Smith’s career thus far the only thing that stands in close parallel to Baker’s is this come back season under the same tutelage as Dave Canales. So it’s understandable that this was one of the first go to comparisons for valuation. Unfortunately, when you look at the body of work for each quarterback things start to become askew.

At the forefront when looking at Smith is his long history You see a quarterback who largely failed their first stint as a starter for the Jets and then followed that up with six years a as a backup. Though he had one great resurgence in 2022 earning comeback player of the year honors it’s not really a comeback. Yes he was a first round pick, like Baker, but at no point was he ever on top or a viable starter. Afterward, with largely the same offensive personnel Smith saw a regression this season. So as it stands he only has one good season, one average season, and the rest were very much subpar. On top of all that, Smith was 32 when he got his contract.

Jimmy Garoppolo Model

Much like the comparison to Geno Smith the Jimmy Garoppolo tenures have been largely sporadic and mostly failures. To date he’s only lead his teams to In his ten years Garoppolo has only played one full season. Albeit a successful one but he has been a liability. Oddly enough it still won him, like Geno, comeback player of the year. Then he fell out of favor with the 49ers. After two marginally successful seasons to close out his time in San Francisco he was supplanted by Brock Purdy.

Signed by the Raiders Garoppolo was expected to return to 2019 form. That didn’t happen. In fact the contract Garoppolo received was based on an assumption that he would be fully healthy and ready to play in 2023. Unfortunately he was not 100% and had to have surgery right before the season. Ultimately his play got him benched and Josh McDaniel’s fired.

Baker Stands Alone

When you compare that to Baker’s trajectory to those above they don’t run truly parallel. Baker, also a first round pick, played fairly well to begin his career with the Browns. Showing some consistency, over 20 touchdowns for his first three seasons, and throwing for over 3,000 yards in each season with the Browns.

During the injury season, his fourth in Cleveland, he gutted through an injury. His tenacity showed some through. Something neither of the other two quarterbacks were able to do. Unfortunately the Browns saw his performance, though they knew he was injured, as an opportunity to persuadably trade for an upgrade. Closing out a portion of his career where he willed the Browns to the playoffs and brought them their first post season win in a very long time.

The year of bouncing from the dysfunctional Browns to the worse Panthers didn’t fair well for Baker. I find it hard to hold against Baker anything that happened in one of the most mismanaged teams in the league. One with no offensive identity or direction. Luckily he asked for his release and it was granted. The next day he was with the Rams and two days later he was starting. Now, it’s hard enough to learn a full play book over the entirety of the offseason so expecting him to do so for the Rams was far fetched. But he he played and didn’t play terribly.

Now after a season with a stable team with time to understand the playbook Baker came through. He had grit, moxy, and won over the locker room. Neither of the comparisons above have a track record like that compares or has been known for this level of leadership.

Comparison That Are Out Of Reach

Spotrac also puts forward a player comparison by contract to the Daniel jones four year $160 million dollar contract and the Derek Carr four year $150 million dollar contract. Placing them in the $37-$40 million dollar range per season. As it pertains to Jones, he’s been regressing since his rookie campaign and looks every bit of a quarterback who belongs in the UFL. Meanwhile Carr, after receiving his contract looks to be a shell of himself. Quite frankly he hasn’t been the same since 2016 season and given the amount of time the Raiders spent trailing going into the fourth quarter of games his numbers feel inflated to me.

Both these contracts represent the folly of rewarding quarterbacks on hopes and dreams. The good thing is that’s not where the Buccaneers sit now with Baker. His play has garnered the feelings similar to the better seasons Carr had and the rookie campaign the Giants clung to with Jones’ contract. These contracts are likely less than what the Buccaneers would offer. Rightfully so but there are more desperate teams who sit outside the area in the first round to snatch a top quarterback prospect. They may be willing to pay that price to pry Baker away from the Buccaneers.

Final Thought

Given the outside pressure of other teams trying to find a quarterback and the interest that Baker may see from after this year’s performance bumps up his pirce. The Buccaneers would need to likely offer more than what Spotrac has assessed. So instead of the $27.1 million I could see a bump to the $30 to $32 million a year range with a four year contract.

Mutual interest could very well play a role though. Baker has already stated if he came back it would have to be with Mike Evans. If that’s the case it could be that Baker comes back with a more cap friendly contract so long as it leaves money in place to be used for Mike Evans. Maybe that would push his price to the level that Spotrac assess. But the signings may have to be sequential. Evans would need to be signed first for Baker to consider. Or maybe they must happen simultaneously. As in both players come in for talks and walk out with contracts considering each other. Now, I’m not entirely sure Evans contract is dependent on Baker and Jason Licht should be ready to open the checkbook for him.

At the end of the day I believe Baker will be a Buccaneer next season. One issue here is that it needs to happen in early February. Due to the contract at hand if not then, even if resigned, dead money hits the cap.

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  1. I think any contract under $30MM is unreasonable. I would put money on him getting offers at least at the franchise tag amount of $35-$36MM on the open market, at a minimum.

    Offer him $120MM over 3 years ($35MM – $40MM – $45MM) and $80MM guaranteed. With the cap going up a lot over the next few year, this would actually look better in the out years. Plus, they can get out of the deal after the second year with only $5MM in dead money.

    If you are not prepared to make that commitment for Baker, then you have two options. Tag him or let him walk. If you tag him and he has another year like this one, next season he will fetch $45-$50MM per year. If you let him walk, you get nothing for him.

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