Buccaneers ESPN Trade Pitch Adds Projected $283 Million QB, Dumps Baker Mayfield - Sport News

Buccaneers ESPN Trade Pitch Adds Projected $283 Million QB, Dumps Baker Mayfield

There is plenty of buzz building around the potential for the Bears to pull off trade quarterback Justin Fields. There’s also buzz about Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield working out a deal to stay in Tampa Bay at next week’s NFL draft combine. But ESPN is making a pretty bold suggestion this week: The Buccaneers should pass on sticking with Mayfield and instead land Fields in a trade.

GM Jason Licht has a decision to make at the Buccaneers quarterback spot.

It would be a very different direction than what’s expected, of course. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that GM Jason Licht is expected to meet with Mayfield’s agents—as well as agents for big-time free agents Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield—during the combine as they lay the groundwork for new contracts.

But what if the Buccaneers went in an entirely different direction and instead traded for Fields, who would likely only cost a second-round pick and is on a contract that, for now, at least, would do wonders for the Buccaneers’ cap troubles?

That’s what ESPN’s Aaron Schatz is wondering in an article titled, “2024 NFL offseason: Bold moves, trades in free agency, draft for all 32 teams.”

Baker Mayfield no Lock as Buccaneers Quarterback?
Schatz makes the case for the Bucs making such a move by pointing out that Mayfield is no guarantee to repeat his 2023 success.

“Sure, Tampa Bay could bring Baker Mayfield back at quarterback for a reasonable price,” he wrote. “Last season, Mayfield had his best season since his rookie campaign in 2018. But how much do you trust that Mayfield will be able to repeat that season in 2024, especially if Evans departs in free agency? And do the Bucs feel like they’re ready to build around Mayfield for the future?”

That does ignore the fact that Mayfield got better as last season went on, and despite playing through multiple injuries, finished the year by throwing for 1,110 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in the final four games, with a QB rating of 111.1. He was then fantastic in the Bucs’ two playoff games.

But Schatz’s point that Mayfield has really only had two good NFL seasons out of six, and may be unreliable, is fair. Mayfield does seem to have matured, though, and it’s not crazy to imagine he will follow up last season with another good year.

Justin Fields Would Free Up Cap Space
But would Fields, who only turns 25 next month, be a better option? He is a running quarterback, no doubt, and has had trouble working as a pocket passer. He is an outstanding runner, though, and despite a career 10-28 record as a starter, he hit his stride late last season and led the Bears to a 4-2 record in the last six games.

Wrote Schatz: “Instead, what if the Buccaneers went with the player who still has the higher ceiling but also the higher floor? Trade for Fields and see if you can put him in a situation to succeed, just as you did with Mayfield last season. If you can unlock the talent, there’s so much promise for the future. If you can’t unlock the talent, well, you were probably going to need to get a new quarterback after a couple of years of Mayfield anyway.”

There is a financial angle here, too. Mayfield’s market value, according to Spotrac, is a four-year, $108 million contract, or $27.1 million per year. Fields, though, is still on his rookie deal, with a $6 million cap hit. There is a fifth-year option of $25 million after that, and Fields’ market value from there, per Spotrac, is a six-year, $283 million deal that works out to just over $47 million per year. So adding Fields and letting Mayfield walk would be beneficial financially, at least in the short term.

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