The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected by many to be arguably the worst team in the NFL this season, but that obviously hasn't been the case. Anyone who has watched the Buccaneers over the last couple of seasons knew that there was no way this team was going to completely bottom out this year, even if they took another step back after Tom Brady's retirement. Part of the reason why the Bucs have stayed in the mix (in a weak division) is due to the play of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
And what's crazy at this point is that I think we can effectively call him "journeyman" quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield was the #1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, and was traded late last offseason to the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired Matt Rhule in-season, and Mayfield was jettisoned shortly after that. The Los Angeles Rams picked him up, and rehabbed his value a little bit, enough to the point that Mayfield was able to get a free agent deal with the Buccaneers worth $4 million.
It was a pretty steep fall for a guy who once set the NFL rookie record for passing touchdowns in a season, but it was a great value for the Bucs and a great way for them to keep getting maximum value out of players like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Thanks to the way he's played this season, Mayfield is projected to turn his $4 million "prove-it" deal with the Bucs in 2023 into a deal worth a projected $16-17 million according to Spotrac's Market Value projector model. That would be a nice payday indeed, but what team is paying Baker? Well, if the Bucs find a way to win the NFC South, they should probably be the ones to do it. But with so many teams potentially changing head coaches in 2024, I think it's safe to say Mayfield will have no shortage of suitors at that price point this coming offseason, especially on a two-year deal.
Mayfield has been really solid this season both as a passer and using his legs. He's completed 64.7 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns, just seven interceptions, and he's added 153 rushing yards (on pace for a career-high).
It hasn't been a perfect season for the Bucs, by any means, nor has it been a perfect season for Baker Mayfield. But I think there's no question that he's played his way into a starting role again for 2024 and likely at a much higher pay grade than where he currently is. Mayfield may be a "journeyman" at this point, but he's going to be a well-paid journeyman before too long.