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.