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Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers share mutual interest for return in 2024

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It has been a resurgent season for Baker Mayfield.

Cast aside by the Carolina Panthers and overlooked by most teams in free agency this past March, the former No. 1 overall pick has reestablished himself as a sure-fire NFL starter in 2023.

And in the process, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers are right in the middle of the playoff hunt. They are currently the No. 4 seed in the NFC heading into today's showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And all that has led to this: Sources say there is mutual interest for Mayfield and the Bucs to run it back in 2024. The former Browns, Panthers and Rams quarterback might have found a stable home.

There are potential issues to work through, however, with Mayfield set to enter free agency having renewed leverage. But based on what the team has meant to him, and what the QB means to them, both parties want to do it again next year.

Mayfield has already cashed in with the Bucs. In addition to his $4 million base, Mayfield is in position to earn an additional $1 million thanks to play-time incentives, plus another $1 million if the team makes the playoffs. There are additional performance-based incentives available, as well.

Mayfield, 28, is on his way to a career year, completing 63.5% of his passes for 3,315 yards with 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has meshed with new offensive coordinator Dave Canales, helping Tampa win its last three entering Week 16.

He has seven TDs and one giveaway the last two weeks, and his 13.6 pass yards per attempt last week was tied for the highest by any QB in 2023, which was Mayfield's new single-game career high. He is also averaging a career-best 2.72 average time to throw in 2023 and has 13 TDs on pass attempts shorter than 10 air yards, per Next Gen Stats.

Mayfield also has five games this year with multiple passing TDs and zero INTs, which is tied for the most such games in a single season for his career, a mark he set in 2020.

The franchise tag is also available for the Buccaneers to use on Mayfield, though the hope would be to work out a deal. And there are plenty of reasons why.

Inside the building, Tampa has let Mayfield be himself. He's described as having a humility that wasn't always present during his previous stops, the troubles of the last few seasons seeming to humble Mayfield. Perhaps that's why those who work in the building view him as someone extremely happy to be part of this.

Mayfield will go to his weekly dinner with the offensive linemen, he'll hang out in the equipment room tossing barbs at staffers and he'll be patient with the younger players as they learn. Some of the mechanical issues that plagued him while dealing with and recovering from a left-shoulder injury are behind him, and Mayfield looks primed to continue his run.

How far the Bucs can go remains to be seen. But thanks in part to Mayfield's play, Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles has now emerged as a potential Coach of the Year candidate.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding and resetting year for Tampa after going all-in during the Tom Brady era. Depending on your calculations, the Bucs either have $75 million or $81 million in dead money on this year's cap, taking the entire hit this season.

Brady accounts for $35 million or so. Several others -- Donovan Smith ($8 million), Leonard Fournette ($5 million), Shaq Mason ($4.3 million), Cameron Brate ($3.5 million), Akiem Hicks ($4.9 million) and Julio Jones ($3.5 million) -- all contributed to a stripped-down roster relying on several young players and a QB few wanted.

Instead, Tampa Bay is now in the playoff mix, and it might have found the QB of the future in the process.

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