Todd Bowles Sends Strong Message on Baker Mayfield’s Future

Baker Mayfield

Getty Baker Mayfield is a "high priority" for the Buccaneers in free agency.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles didn’t mince words when addressing quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s future at the 2024 NFL Combine on Tuesday, February 27.

Mayfield could become a free agent next month with a hefty contract due to him. He had a career year with the Buccaneers in 2023 amid 4,044 yards passing and 28 touchdowns en route to an NFC South title and playoff win.

“It’s an extremely high priority, obviously. We’ve got a couple days before the league year begins but we love Baker,” Bowles said on “Good Morning Football” on Tuesday. “Baker had a heck of a year, he fit right in with us all the way around, the chemistry was outstanding with the receivers and the offense as a whole.”

“We want to hope to build on that. I understand the business side of it. Like I said, we like Bake and we hope that things get worked out,” Bowles added.

Likewise, Bowles wants wide receiver Mike Evans back. Also a pending free agent, Evans caught 79 passes for 1,255 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023.

“He had a career year last year,” Bowles said. “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, putting all our resources into signing 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.”

Neither will come easy for the Buccaneers’ pocketbook. Spotrac projects Mayfield to make $27.1 million annually and Evans to garner $23.8 million annually. The Buccaneers have $45.77 million in salary cap space to work with.

Buccaneers to Free Up $5 Million With Shaquil Barrett Release

Tampa Bay will free up $5 million in salary cap space with the release of linebacker Shaquil Barrett according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. Despite his prowess during the Super Bowl run, Barrett didn’t match his previous sack numbers after he returned from an Achilles injury with just 4.5 sacks in 2023.

“Did not want to make that call,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht told reporters on Tuesday via Laine. “At the same time I did — I wanted to give him some time here to look for another team if that’s what he wants to do. We can’t officially release him until the beginning of the league year, but he actually calmed me down on the call.”

Another Cut Candidate Looms for Buccaneers

More cuts could be coming as the Buccaneers look to make room for key free agents such as Mayfield and Evans. The Buccaneers could also re-sign linebacker Lavonte David, defensive end Will Gholston, and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage could join Barrett as another salary cap casualty. Pro Football Focus identified the injury-riddled wideout who has a three-year, $30 million deal with the team.

“Gage was unable to stay healthy during his time in Tampa, and the Buccaneers may have to pay up big time to retain franchise legend Mike Evans,” PFF’s Brad Spielberger wrote on February 20. ” Even if not, rookie Trey Palmer developed into a solid option in the passing game and Tampa Bay will need to reorganize its books with major paydays looming for Baker Mayfield, Antoine Winfield and Tristan Wirfs.”