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Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles: Re-signing Baker Mayfield 'extremely high priority'

A surprising postseason run in 2023 has led to some difficult decisions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2024.

Tampa has a plethora of impending free agents, but the priority it would seem, according to head coach Todd Bowles, is bringing back quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had the best season of his career in leading the Bucs to an NFC South title and a playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's an extremely high priority, obviously," Bowles said Tuesday on Good Morning Football from the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. "You know, we got a couple days before the league year begins, but we love Baker. Baker had a heck of a year. He fit right in with us all the way around. The chemistry was outstanding with him and all the receivers and the offense as a whole, so you want to hope to build on that. I understand the business side of it. Like I said, we like Bake and we hope things get worked out."

Mayfield, the 2018 NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick, had ups and downs in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns before splitting the 2022 campaign with the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams. In Tampa, he blossomed with 4,044 passing yards and 28 touchdowns -- both career highs.

Hopeful as they might be of re-signing Mayfield, with their QB1 unsigned and Kyle Trask entering his final season, the Bucs could also be contender to draft a quarterback. 

"You can never rule it out," general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday at the combine. "You never rule it out. But I will say right now the focus is on (re-) signing Baker."

Mayfield has been complimentary of the Bucs, going as far to say that the squad has the "upper hand" in contract talks, but also letting it be known that he's hoping to have wide receiver Mike Evans back, as well.

"Mike deserves to be a Buccaneer for life," Mayfield said ahead of the Super Bowl.

It's a sentiment Bowles agrees with after Evans turned in his 10th 1,000-yard season to begin his career in 2023, which included a league-high 13 touchdowns.

"He had a career year last year," Bowles said of Evans. "Obviously, he had a heck of a year and he's been doing it for a decade now, and obviously, we want him to retire as a Buc and everything we're trying to do. Put all our resources to sign him back as well because Mike is great for the community. He's great for the team. He's great for the guys, and he's a heck of a ball player."

Obviously, it's not as easy as wanting to have a your Pro Bowl quarterback and wide receiver back, especially with other impending free agents, such as safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. Bowles and Tampa have already made the tough decision to move on from pass rusher Shaquil Barrett.

Nonetheless, Bowles wants what Mayfield and Evans want, and that's to have them back in pewter in 2024.

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