Baker Mayfield

NFC Contract Details: Bucs, Mayfield, Eagles, Sweat, Parker, Rams, Garoppolo, Saints

Here are the details from some of the recently agreed-upon contracts around the NFC:

  • Baker Mayfield, QB (Buccaneers). Three years, $100MM. Of the $50MM in Mayfield guarantees, $40MM is fully guaranteed. The other $10MM will shift from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2025 league year. Mayfield can also earn $5MM per year via incentives, Fox Sports’ Greg Auman notes. Half of those are stat-based incentives. If Mayfield finishes in the top 10 in the NFL (or top five in the NFC) in passer rating, TD passes, yards, yards per attempt or completion percentage in any of the three years, he would earn $500K per category, Auman adds. The other $2.5MM per year comes through playoff incentives. Mayfield would earn $500K for a Bucs wild-card win, $750K for a divisional-round conquest and $500K for an NFC championship game win. If the Bucs are to win a Super Bowl with Mayfield at the helm, he would collect another $750K.
  • Darious Williams, CB (Rams). Three years, $22.5MM. Only $7MM of Williams’ $15MM guarantee is locked in at signing, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. This contract’s key date will come on Day 5 of the 2025 league year, when the remaining $8MM will shift from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee. Barring injury, this effectively makes 2024 a “prove it” year for the now-two-time Rams CB.
  • Josh Sweat, DE (Eagles). One year, $10MM. The Eagles’ Sweat rework will bring $9.5MM guaranteed for the veteran defensive end, per OverTheCap. Philly used four void years to spread out the cap hit, which sits at $8.1MM for 2024. If Sweat signs elsewhere before this contract’s March 2025 expiration, the Eagles will be tagged with $16.4MM in dead money.
  • Cedrick Wilson, WR (Saints). Two years, $5.75MM. The Saints are guaranteeing Wilson $2.85MM,’s Katherine Terrell notes. The second-generation NFL wideout will be due a $200K roster bonus in 2025; none of Wilson’s ’25 salary ($2.7MM) is guaranteed.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (Rams). One year, $3.18MM. Previously reported as including $4.5MM in base value, the Rams’ Garoppolo contract (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe) contains $3.18MM in base pay.
  • Ben Bredeson, G (Buccaneers). One year, $3MM. Bredeson’s Bucs pact includes $1.75MM guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets.
  • DeVante Parker, WR (Eagles). One year, $1.21MM. The Patriots are paying most of Parker’s deal, with $3.19MM guaranteed remaining on his 2023 extension. The Eagles are not guaranteeing the former first-rounder anything, Volin tweets. The Pats will receive a $1.98MM cap credit if Parker plays the whole 2024 season.

Broncos “Leaning Toward” Jarrett Stidham As QB1

Before the 2024 league year began, we heard that Jarrett Stidham had a good chance to open the season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Now, as the dust settles on the first wave of free agency, it appears that Stidham’s hold on the QB1 job has only gotten stronger.

In evaluating the QB signings and trades that have taken place around the league, Mike Klis of says that the Broncos “seem to be leaning toward” having Stidham serve as the starter — at least at the beginning of the 2024 campaign — and using their No. 12 overall selection on a collegiate passer. After all, while Denver considered Sam Darnold, who ultimately signed with the Vikings, Sean Payton & Co. reportedly did not make a contract offer (per Klis, Darnold strongly preferred Minnesota anyway).

Likewise, Klis reports that the Broncos did their due diligence on former Patriots signal-caller Mac Jones, but they did not make a trade offer. New England ultimately dealt Jones to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Klis also says that Denver was never in on high-priced free agent options like Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield, and he adds that the club has not shown any interest in Ryan Tannehill. While there are still free agents (Tannehill) and trade candidates (Trey Lance, Zach Wilson) that the Broncos could pursue, none of them would necessarily unseat Stidham.

Notwithstanding Klis’ expectation that the Broncos’ will use their top draft choice on a quarterback, Troy Renck of the Denver Post believes the team could trade back, unless a player like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy should fall into that range, or unless Payton is particularly high on Oregon’s Bo Nix. Renck’s sources tell him that four quarterbacks will be selected within the top six picks of the draft, and it certainly seems to be a safe bet that the first three selections will be used on passers. The Bears (No. 1 overall) and Commanders (No. 2 overall) appear poised to draft QBs, and even if the Patriots (No. 3 overall) trade back, the team that trades with them may well use that pick on a quarterback. The price to leap up the draft board to select the third- or fourth-best QB prospect in the draft would be prohibitive for a team like the Broncos that is clearly in rebuild mode (to say nothing of the fact that the Vikings, who have the No. 11 overall pick, are better-positioned to make such a move).

Obviously, if the Broncos were to trade down as Renck suggests, that would solidify Stidham as the short-term starter while helping the team pick up additional capital to address other holes on a roster that has plenty of them. One way or another, as Albert Breer of wrote on the day free agency began, Denver is not going to force anything at the QB position, and Payton’s confidence in Stidham affords them the ability to be patient, even if “patience” is not one of Payton’s favorite words.

Baker Mayfield Discusses Bucs Contract

Before agreeing to a new three-year, $100MM deal with the Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield was uncertain if he’d be returning to Tampa Bay for the 2024 season.

[RELATED: Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield Agree To Deal]

After inking a one-year prove-it deal with the organization last offseason, Mayfield rehabilitated his value with a bounce-back season. There wasn’t any guarantee that the Buccaneers front office would be willing to pony up the money it’d take to retain the quarterback, but the two sides ultimately agreed to a new deal before the start of free agency.

“There were times that the couple days prior we didn’t know if we were going to get it done before free agency hit. So it was a lot of ups and downs,” said Mayfield (via ESPN’s Jenna Laine). “Unfortunately I had to think about that. I had to think about the fact that we would be here for the birth of our daughter before we even move. We wanted to be back, but if it wasn’t going to be the right fit for us, we were going to let God take control again and that was the big thing. We tried to be as patient as we could. I would be lying if I said we were happy the whole time, but it worked out how it’s supposed to…”

Mayfield admitted that he started to think of backup plans in case a deal with the Buccaneers fell through. Ultimately, it was a text sent by Mayfield to GM Jason Licht that got the wheels in motion, and the front office was quick to draw up an offer after learning of the quarterback’s clear desire to stick with the organization.

“He had us circled as the best place to go and we had him circled as the best player to come and follow the legend, Tom Brady,” Licht told reporters. “Not many quarterbacks would have the confidence to do that, but Baker certainly did. We love his leadership – we love his ability on the field – but his leadership, his ability to rally the team, the city, the fanbase has been surreal.”

Considering the Buccaneers took a chance on Mayfield, it wasn’t a surprise that the QB wanted to stick around after rehabilitating his value. Mayfield admitted that he “had fun playing football again” last season, and he opined that the coaching staff allowed him to be the “best version” of himself. The quarterback also put a clear emphasis on stability; in addition to being wary of a move with a child on the way, Mayfield revealed that he was previously experiencing “dark times” after bouncing between four teams in less than a calendar year.

With the weight of a contract year now off his shoulders, Mayfield will look to build off his strong 2023 campaign. The 28-year-old finished this past season with career-highs in completion percentage (64.3), passing yards (4,044), and touchdowns (28). More notably, he helped guide the Buccaneers to a 9-8 record and a postseason victory, only the second of his career.

Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield Agree To Deal

Baker Mayfield will not reach free agency. The Buccaneers’ efforts to retain their starting quarterback have produced a lucrative new pact. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports the sides are finalizing a three-year, $100MM contract featuring $50MM guaranteed.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler adds this pact -which the team has since confirmed – could reach a maximum value of $115MM. Even if that does not take place, this new deal marks a massive raise for the former No. 1 pick in his bid to cash in following his successful debut Bucs campaign and find stability in the process. After playing in Tampa on a one-year, $4MM deal last year, Mayfield has certainly accomplished that goal.

Rapoport’s colleague Tom Pelissero notes Mayfield’s $30MM salary in 2024 is guaranteed in full. $10MM in 2025 is guaranteed at signing, meanwhile, and a further $10MM comes in the form of an injury guarantee which is set to vest next year. The 28-year-old will see $40MM in 2026, and he can earn $5MM in incentives every year of the pact, per Schefter.

Mayfield easily surpassed expectations after winning out a training camp competition with Kyle Trask in the summer. Mayfield posted career highs in passing yards (4,044) and touchdowns (28) last season. His play helped lead the team to another NFC South title and a run to the divisional round of the postseason. Aiming to retain several main elements of their core, the Buccaneers faced the challenge of keeping Mayfield, Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr. in the fold.

Evans landed a two-year accord after being linked to a free agency endeavor. Winfield, meanwhile, has received the franchise tag and as such will either play out the 2024 season on the tag or agree to his own long-term deal. Mayfield will join that tandem for next year and beyond as he looks to prove his first performance in Tampa Bay was not a fluke.

The Browns’ Deshaun Watson acquisition facilitated Mayfield being traded to the Panthers in 2022. His time in Carolina was short-lived, however, and his struggles led to a release and a late-season cameo with the Rams. The Oklahoma product parlayed that into a flier from Tampa Bay under new offensive coordinator Dave Canales. The latter has since departed (to take over the Panthers as head coach), but Mayfield was involved in the search for Canales’ replacement. That pointed to the player-team relationship being extended, and sustained talks in recent days has brought an deal together.

General manager Jason Licht confirmed the Bucs’ intention of keeping Mayfield in the fold, which has at all times been the expected outcome of this situation. Mayfield’s asking price was pegged as approaching (or perhaps surpassing) $40MM per year, and the base value of the pact falls short at $33.3MM. Maximizing its value would create an AAV of $38.3MM, though, a figure which represents legitimate franchise passer compensation and by far the most lucrative deal of Mayfield’s career.

Of course, the ripple effect of today’s news will be felt around the league. Mayfield was projected to be the second-best quarterback on the market, behind only Kirk Cousins. Many teams which could be suitors for the latter were connected to the former as a backup plan, but attention will now shift even further to Cousins and Minnesota. A new Vikings deal could come to bear in the immediate future; failing that, however, teams such as the Falcons will be able to negotiate a Cousins pact knowing Mayfield is not an option.

Tampa Bay entered Sunday with less than $15MM in cap space, a figure which will be affected by the particulars of the Mayfield deal. The Bucs are not expected to be big players on the open market with respect to outside additions considering their financial situation. Retaining each member of the Mayfield-Evans-Winfield trio was atop the offseason priority list, though, and it has now been achieved. Mayfield’s ability to replicate his 2023 success will be a major talking point for the Buccaneers next season and beyond given the investment made in him by the team.

Latest On Bears’ Quarterback Situation

MARCH 10: ESPN’s Dan Graziano says the Bears did not find the trade market for Fields that they were hoping for (subscription required). Chicago, however, is not panicking and is willing to allow other quarterback dominos like Cousins and Mayfield to fall. Once some of the top players in the market find new homes or re-sign with their current clubs, there will still be a few QB-needy teams, at which point the interest in Fields should intensify.

While it now seems unlikely that Fields will fetch a second-round pick in a trade, the expectation remains that the Bears will eventually deal him and use the No. 1 pick on Williams.

MARCH 3: The situation of the Bears‘ future at the quarterback position has become quite a loaded topic. The closer we get to the 2024 NFL Draft, the more likely it’s beginning to seem that Chicago is attempting to move current starter Justin Fields as it prepares to move on to potential No. 1 overall draft pick Caleb Williams.

According to Diana Russini of The Athletic, chatter at the NFL scouting combine appeared to be consistent, with most believing that the Bears are moving on from Fields. Barring the team picking up his fifth-year option, 2024 would be the final year on Fields’ rookie contract. Instead of allowing Fields to play out his contract on the bench behind Williams, Chicago seems intent on dealing the 24-year-old and returning some value for a player they would eventually allow to walk in free agency.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tells us that many in the league see Fields garnering a potential Day 2 pick for his services. A second- or third-round pick may not be the ideal result for a former first-round selection, but it’s better than getting nothing when his rookie deal expires. Fowler names the Falcons, Steelers, Raiders, and Vikings as possible teams of interest in Fields’ acquisition. Atlanta has been repeatedly linked to the young passer lately, with many debating whether or not he is the best fit in a Rams-influenced systems under new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson. Fowler reports the chances as “fairly good” that the Falcons walk away with either Fields, Kirk Cousins, or Baker Mayfield, leaving a larger range of possibilities for what Atlanta is looking for.

The Bears have made the claim that they want to “do right” by Fields by not leaving him in a “gray area.” Still, having shown their intentions, the team doesn’t necessarily have the strongest bargaining position. Russini poses that the team may need other moves to influence the demand for Fields. She quotes an NFC general manager who explained, “When people know you are getting rid of something, they don’t pay as much for it.” If a few veteran quarterbacks that are also available get moved and decrease the number of options for quarterback-needy teams, a bidding war for Fields may ensue. In order for that to occur, a number of big quarterback names would need to get signed well before the draft.

The draft serves as an effective deadline because once the Bears draft Williams, Fields becomes superfluous, and it’s seeming more and more likely that Williams will be the pick come late-April. At one point, that seemed to be in question as there were rumors that the USC quarterback may force a trade in an effort to avoid playing for the Bears. Williams has since backed down from that notion, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN, expressing excitement and intrigue in the prospect of heading to Chicago.

“I’m not pushing any agenda,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, the Bears have the last say. Regardless of how I feel, I’m not pushing an agenda of, ‘Yeah, I want to go,’ or ‘no, I don’t want to go.’ I’m excited for whatever comes.”

Still, Williams expressed a healthy interest in the Commanders, as well. Getting drafted to Washington would send Williams back to the area in which he went to high school at Gonzaga College HS. While he acknowledged that it would be cool to be so familiar with the area, he emphasized that his job is going to be in the facility working on his game.

There was also thought to be some concern about Williams’ draft-ability after some recent comments from his father, Carl. Carl was the one who suggested that his son would get “two shots at the apple,” according to Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic, essentially suggesting that if the situation as a No. 1 overall pick isn’t favorable, Williams could simply return to school with his NIL deals. The quote from Williams’ father made the rounds, seeding concern in some scouting circles.

Since then, though, it seems the concern has subsided. The more he was put under the microscope, the more Carl appeared just to be a heavily involved father who was extremely invested in helping his child achieve the peaks of his career and abilities. When asked about the situation at the NFL scouting combine, Bears general manager Ryan Poles claimed that he has “no concerns about” Carl’s comments, at all.

So, things appear to be falling into place. The Williams-era seems well on its way to being ushered in, and the Fields-domino will need to fall soon as a result. With free agency set to open in a week and a half, the demand for Fields may soon grow. It’s up to Chicago to find the perfect time to pull the trigger if they ultimately decide to deal Fields.

Bucs GM Jason Licht On Baker Mayfield, Other FA Plans

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht recently updated reporters, including Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, on a number of free agency-related topics. One of the key takeaways from Licht’s comments is his confirmation that the Bucs will not be active players in the market, though they will of course try to retain some of their own FAs.

The team started that process when it agreed to a new contract with star wideout Mike Evans. Crossing that item off the list may help the club re-sign quarterback Baker Mayfield, both because it allows Licht & Co. to focus their efforts almost entirely on Mayfield at this point and because keeping Evans in the fold makes Tampa Bay a more attractive destination for 2018’s No. 1 overall pick. That said, Licht was not exactly adamant that a deal would get done.

“I see a link between [Evans and Mayfield], because they like each other, they played well with each other,” Licht said. “But once again, it doesn’t make it automatic. I’m not taking anybody for granted here, so it’s a good start. It’s a good player to throw to. Who wouldn’t want to throw to [Evans]? But Baker is going to make the decision for him, for himself.”

Licht went on to say that he has contingency plans in case Mayfield does not return, one of which could feature Kyle Trask. The 2021 second-rounder has backed up both Tom Brady and Mayfield in Tampa but has thrown a grand total of 10 regular season passes in his three-year career.

“You always have to have — as [former Bucs head coach] Bruce [Arians] would say — to look behind Door 2 and 3 and 4 and 5,” Licht said. “So, yeah, we always feel like we need options. Yeah, we always have to have plans. We also like Door No. 2 that’s right here (meaning Trask).”

Sources from multiple teams have told Jeremy Fowler of (subscription required) that they expect Mayfield and the Bucs to eventually come to terms on a three- or four-year accord. However, the fact that a deal has not yet been consummated is an indication to Fowler’s colleague, Dan Graziano, that Mayfield realizes the Bucs are not the only team interested in meeting his asking price (which is believed to be $40MM or more per year). Tampa Bay may ultimately pull the trigger, but given the amount of money ownership paid Brady — nearly $100MM over three years — and the fact that the team will need to hand LT Tristan Wirfs a top-of-the-market contract at some point, there are clear budgetary issues at play. The Falcons and Patriots loom as potential Mayfield suitors, and Graziano confirms that Atlanta would indeed be interested if Kirk Cousins chooses to remain in Minnesota.

Speaking of Wirfs, Licht implied that the three-time Pro Bowler’s contract is not a top agenda item at the moment (which makes sense, since Wirfs is under club control through 2024 by virture of the fifth-year option of his rookie deal and can be retained via the franchise tag after that). The GM did say, though, that he has had preliminary talks with Wirfs’ camp.

“For sure, we’ve already had some discussions there,” Licht said. “It’s not that Tristan is not a priority, because he’s one of our best players as well. It’s just something from a time standpoint. He’s already under contract, so we’ve had some beginning discussions with his agent.”

As for linebacker Lavonte David, who recently indicated that he would either re-sign with the Bucs or retire, Licht said, “Once again, we’ve been having good conversations. We know Lavonte wants to be a Buccaneer, and we want Lavonte to be a Buccaneer, so that’s usually a pretty good start.”

Although cornerback Carlton Davis is not eligible for free agency — his contract is up at the end of the 2024 campaign — he is due to count $20.37MM against the Bucs’ cap sheet this year. In a subscribers-only piece published by the Fowler-Graziano tandem last week, Davis was identified as a trade candidate.

Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield Engaged In “Positive” Negotiations

MARCH 7: Laine reports the sides have made slight progress in contract talks, meaning an agreement could still be reached before free agency. The legal tampering window opens on March 11, meaning that is the earliest point at which Mayfield could begin speaking with other teams and testing his market. This situation will thus remain worth watching closely over the coming days.

MARCH 4: The Buccaneers accomplished one of their major offseason goals today, as the team agreed to a new contract with star wideout Mike Evans. Now, the front office will shift focus to the quarterback position, and it sounds like negotiations are going well with their 2023 starter.

[RELATED: Buccaneers, Mike Evans Agree To Deal]

According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, the Buccaneers and Baker Mayfield‘s camp started discussing a new deal at the combine, with negotiations described as “positive.” In fact, both sides are so motivated to sign a new deal that Mayfield might not even hit free agency.

General manager Jason Licht recently made it clear that Mayfield was the team’s top option at the position. When asked about the quarterback draft class, the GM admitted that the team’s “focus is on signing Baker.” Mayfield has also stated a desire to continue his career in Tampa Bay. After all, it was the Buccaneers who took a chance on him last offseason and allowed him to revive his career.

Further, Mayfield values the “high degree of organizational stability,” even with offensive coordinator Dave Canales having left to become the Panthers head coach. As Laine points out, Mayfield has also been looking to settle down with one organization after having spent time with four different teams between 2021 and 2023.

To top it all off, Mayfield made it clear that Evans’ impending free agency would play a role in his decision. The quarterback previously stated that “[i]f I’m back, I want Mike back” (via Laine), and with the wideout having agreed to a new deal, it appears that Mayfield’s demands have been met.

Of course, as is the case with many free agents, money will also be a factor. While the former first-overall pick is motivated to stick with the Buccaneers, he isn’t willing to give the organization a “hometown discount,” per Dianna Russini of The Athletic. That would leave the door open for potential suitors like the Falcons to swoop in with an offer that Mayfield can’t refuse, and it only reinforces why the Buccaneers may look to get a deal done before the start of free agency.

After signing a one-year deal with the Buccaneers last offseason, Mayfield proceeded to guide his squad to a 9-8 record and a playoff victory. Mayfield finished the regular season having set new career highs in completion percentage (64.3), passing yards (4,044), and touchdowns (28).

Falcons Prefer Kirk Cousins To Justin Fields?

The team most closely tied to a veteran QB upgrade going into free agency, the Falcons appear readier to come out of this offseason with a more experienced passer than Justin Fields.

Although a recent odds update placed the Falcons atop the list for Fields, some around the league believe the Rams-influenced scheme OC Zac Robinson will implement in Atlanta will lead the team toward pass-first options like Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield. If the Vikings or Buccaneers cannot keep their starters off the market, the Falcons appear poised to make a run.

Connected already to being interested in both passers, the Falcons indeed have done work on the veterans. The Vikings are “loosely bracing” for Cousins to remain unsigned by the March 11 legal tampering period and test the market,’s Jeremy Fowler indicates. This would open the door for the Falcons to talk to the free agent-to-be, with Fowler adding the team has done plenty of work on Cousins, Fields and Mayfield.

Mayfield has some ties to the new Falcons staff, with Robinson being his position coach during his brief Rams stint and Raheem Morris in place as Los Angeles’ DC at that point. The team has some degree of interest here. Fields is a Georgia native, and while the Falcons passed on the Ohio State product in 2021, some buzz has pointed the Bears QB to his home-state team. As it stands, the Falcons appear in good position to come away with one of these QBs this offseason, per Fowler.

Cousins may be the team’s top target. A Saturday report indicated the Falcons would compete for Cousins, and ESPN’s Dan Graziano takes it a step further by adding the team should be expected to make a strong pursuit of the six-year Vikings starter if he is unsigned by the tampering period. The Vikings and Cousins are still talking, but no Minnesota offer has satisfied the 35-year-old QB yet. The Vikings and Cousins have come to terms on three contracts — in 2018, 2020 and 2022 — but could not agree on a fourth deal last year. Guarantees stood as the sticking point there, and the Vikings are in crunch time with the rehabbing passer now.

Minnesota failing to reach an agreement with Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year (March 13) would bring $28.5MM in dead money onto its 2024 cap. Void years added as part of last year’s restructure will lead to that outcome. The Vikings ate some void years-driven dead money for losing Dalvin Tomlinson last year, but the Cousins figure would obviously bring more trouble by comparison.

Fields may well be taking a backseat to Cousins for Atlanta, per Graziano. This would be a pricier proposition for the Falcons, as Cousins — he of $231MM-plus in career earnings — is quite adept at maximizing his value. Fields also can be kept on a rookie salary this season, as his fifth-year option number — a decision due in May — would affect 2025. But Cousins has certainly been the more dependable passer. Though, if alternate invites are excluded, the ex-Washington draftee has one career Pro Bowl nod. Fields is 11 years younger, at 24, but has not shown himself to be a stable option as a passer just yet.

The Falcons are eager to upgrade on Desmond Ridder, and two years after widely believed to have finished second for Deshaun Watson, the team appears prepared to spend to acquire such help. One of the above-referenced trio should probably be expected to become Atlanta’s starter next season. Which one will end up in Georgia?

Patriots Interested In Baker Mayfield

The expectation remains the Patriots will address their quarterback need by selecting a passer with the No. 3 overall pick. But Jerod Mayo‘s first roster needs help in many places. Trading down could potentially be an option.

If the Patriots are considering moving down, it would put them in play for one of the top free agent arms. They are indeed believed to be monitoring Baker Mayfield, with the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed indicating the Buccaneers QB has some supporters within the organization. A number of connections exist.

In addition to the Patriots being connected to Mayfield interest back in 2018, a few staffers from the team that did draft him are working in Foxborough now. That includes de facto GM Eliot Wolf, who was with the Browns when they pulled the trigger on taking Mayfield first overall six years ago. OC Alex Van Pelt coached Mayfield for two seasons in Cleveland. So was QBs coach T.C. McCartney. Additionally, assistant Ben McAdoo and front office staffer Pat Stewart were with the Panthers during Mayfield’s woeful stay in Charlotte.

Outside interest in Mayfield will only stand to drive up the QB’s price in Buccaneers negotiations, which have begun. Tampa Bay has expressed interest in re-signing Mayfield for a bit now, but the cost is expected to skyrocket after his bounce-back season. Mayfield, 28, showed considerable improvement after an injury-plagued 2021 slate and a brutal 2022 showing in Carolina. The former Heisman winner showed flashes with the Rams and is coming off setting career-high marks in TD passes (28) and passing yards (4,044). He also mixed in a career-low 10 INTs.

The Bucs gave Mayfield input in their OC search, which ended with ex-Rams OC Liam Coen. They could use the franchise tag to keep the starting QB off the market, but with that number coming in beyond $38MM, such a move is not anticipated. Tampa Bay is expected to tag Antoine Winfield Jr., giving the team until March 11 to hammer out a deal with Mayfield and prevent him from exploring the open market. Mayfield is also interested in staying with the Bucs, but other teams are naturally curious about a potential agreement. The Falcons are believed to be among them, though they are squarely in the Justin Fields mix.

While the Patriots may have Mayfield on their radar, Kyed adds they are not believed to be interested in Kirk Cousins. The latter is seven years older than Mayfield and coming off a torn Achilles. Cousins’ steadier track record is also likely to make him a more expensive free agent. Cousins also would not seemingly align with Mayo’s first Patriots roster, which needs help across the board on offense.

Mayfield would better align here, but it would still be surprising if the Pats went in this direction. The team may be interested in pairing a free agent with a QB at No. 3 overall, putting Mac Jones in limbo. Mayfield would certainly be leery of a team considering a first-round pick, though given what it will cost to acquire the veteran QB, it would be highly unlikely a team would sign him and then draft a passer in the first round. Several bridge-level options will be available in free agency, and it is more likely the Patriots pursue one of them instead of ponying up big bucks for Mayfield.

Falcons Interested In Baker Mayfield?

Linked closely to quarterbacks this offseason, the Falcons may be moving close to landing their next starter. Justin Fields-to-Atlanta buzz is heating up, but the NFC South team also looks to be interested in Baker Mayfield — potentially as a contingency plan.

The Buccaneers have begun talks with Mayfield, who would stand to lose some leverage if the Falcons complete a Fields trade soon. But Atlanta is believed to be in the mix for Mayfield, according to Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline. It would take the Bucs failing to complete a Mayfield deal to bring the Falcons into this equation, however. The Bucs’ exclusive negotiating rights expire at 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins.

Last year, the Giants and Seahawks needed to pin down the markets for Daniel Jones and Geno Smith, respectively. Both teams reached deals with their QBs to keep them off the market. The Bucs are in the same situation, and it will require a big raise for them to keep Tom Brady‘s successor in town. Mayfield is expected to draw at least $34MM per year on his next deal, per Pauline, who throws out a $40MM-AAV prospect as a potential ceiling number.

The Giants giving Jones $40MM per annum could conceivably be a factor here, and that contract included $81MM fully guaranteed. Mayfield’s guarantee figure will be one of this offseason’s most interesting numbers, given where his value stood after poor 2021 and ’22 seasons. A team shelling out a Jones-level guarantee would certainly be taking a risk.

The Falcons do have some staffers familiar with Mayfield. New OC Zac Robinson was Mayfield’s position coach during his brief stay with the Rams, with Raheem Morris obviously observing the former waiver claim in that span as well.

Mayfield going from where he was entering last year’s free agency to his present value remains a fascinating process, one that underscores the supply-and-demand issue at quarterback. Other suitors are in on Mayfield, per Pauline, though it is not certain how aggressive the non-Bucs contingent plans to be. It would stand to reason the Raiders, Broncos and perhaps the Vikings — depending on their Kirk Cousins conclusion — are monitoring Mayfield. The Steelers have been linked to Fields, though they have also been connected to a plan of bringing in a veteran to compete with Kenny Pickett. Given where Mayfield’s price might be, he is overqualified for that assignment despite needing to win the Tampa Bay job last summer.

The Bucs likely have Mayfield atop their priority queue, but they also are believed to be readying to use their franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr. It would be a bit of a leap for the Bucs to tag Mayfield, as that would cost more than $38MM. Even if Mayfield’s AAV could wind up in this ballpark — a staggering raise from the $4MM base salary he signed for in 2023 — that would be a crippling cap hold for the Bucs to carry into free agency. That said, the team just qualified for the divisional round with Brady’s $35.1MM dead-money sum on the books.

Regarding Fields and the Falcons, a DraftKings Sportsbook update places this as the runaway lead fit by slotting Atlanta as a minus-250 favorite for the Chicago QB. The Bears hope to finalize a Fields decision before free agency, with GM Ryan Poles indicating he wants to do right by the three-year starter. Chicago is on track to draft Caleb Williams with its Carolina-obtained No. 1 pick, and while that is not yet final, Fields is widely expected to be wearing a different uniform in 2024.

If the Falcons do not end up with the Georgia native — whom they passed on in 2021 — a Mayfield push could become intense for a team that has wanted to upgrade on Desmond Ridder since the season ended.