While quarterback Baker Mayfield joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has its skeptics and critics, one NFC personnel executive doesn’t see it that way.
“I think it’s a really good fit for Baker,” the NFC exec told Heavy’s Matt Lombardo. “Especially working with [offensive coordinator] Dave Canales. Those two are a solid match.”
Mayfield officially signed with the Bucs on Monday, March 20, after getting bounced around the league in 2022 with three different teams. The former No. 1 draft pick in 2018 has an 8-16 record with 27 touchdowns versus 21 interceptions in the past two seasons. He will look to revive his career in the footsteps of retired Bucs quarterback Tom Brady after a season where the Bucs offense sputtered at 18.4 points per game.
“Listen, I’m never going to be Tom Brady,” Mayfield told reporters on Monday. “There’s a reason why he’s won so many Super Bowls. He’s the greatest of all time — there’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to try to be Tom. I’m going to be me. That’s what’s gotten me to this point. We’re going to do it differently.”
Canales could help Mayfield put his stamp on the offense after a subpar 2022 for the Bucs. A recent quarterbacks coach, Canales joined the Bucs in February after 14 years on the Seattle Seahawks staff under head coach Pete Carroll.
Canales notably helped quarterback Geno Smith put together a career year in 2022 with a 9-8 record amid 4,282 yards passing for 30 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. Smith also completed 69.8% of his passes with an average of 10.7 yards per completion. He also rushed for 366 yards and a touchdown amid 5.4 yards per attempt.
Canales Has Blueprint in Smith for Mayfield
Smith notably stepped in for longtime Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, whom the Seahawks traded to the Denver Broncos in 2022.
None of Smith’s previous NFL seasons suggested he could emerge as a winning starting quarterback. Smith went 11-18 as a starter with the New York Jets amid 25 touchdowns versus 34 interceptions in 2013 and 2014. He became a backup quarterback for the following six seasons, including his first two years with the Seahawks.
“Geno spent a couple of years sitting behind that watching it like, ‘I can do that. I can manage that.’ And then Geno allowed us to open up the playbook a little bit with some of our pass stuff that he was a little bit stronger in,” Canales said in a February 22 press conference. “So we just tilted it a little bit this way or that way based upon who the quarterback was. We are always trying to look for a way to put the quarterback in his comfort zone and build from there.”
Canales emphasized “a quarterback friendly system” for offense during his introductory press conference when the Bucs only had Kyle Trask on the roster at quarterback. Mayfield has far more on-field experience than Trask, and Mayfield has more career wins and playoff wins than Smith, whom Canales helped turn around before.
Mayfield is also less than three years removed from a season where he led the Cleveland Browns to an 11-5 record and the franchise’s first playoff win since 1994. He threw for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns versus eight interceptions that year.
Opportunity Awaits Mayfield, Bucs
While Mayfield hasn’t attained matched his 2020 performance in the past two years, Lombardo noted that the Bucs face a win-win situation with Mayfield in a “pretty wide open” NFC South.
“At worst, Mayfield is a bridge for the cap-strapped Buccaneers to field a steady veteran quarterback in 2023, perhaps to a first-round rookie chosen this April or a marquee addition next offseason,” Lombardo wrote. “But, Mayfield showed in four starts with the Los Angeles Rams last season that with competent weapons around him, he can be a competent passer.”
“Mayfield completed 63.8% of his passes in a Rams uniform for 850 yards with 4 touchdowns to 2 interceptions,” Lombardo added. “Landing in an offense with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and emerging running back Rachaad White, Mayfield has the opportunity to audition to be a part of Tampa’s or 31 other teams’ future.”