Baker Mayfield doesn’t have a bounce back year
This is almost unfair because it seems so obvious, but it’s safe to say without hyperbole that the Buccaneers entire season hinges on what version of Baker Mayfield shows up.
Baker’s arrival fits with a revenge tour narrative that is brewing in Tampa Bay. He has a sizable chip on his shoulder after how his career has gone the last few years, specifically the Homer Simpson-style cliff dive he took last season. He went from being the starter in Cleveland to traded to Carolina to an emergency signing in Los Angeles.
We’ve seen what Baker is capable of, helping the Browns win their first playoff game in two decades and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Saquon Barkley. So far in his career he’s thrown for almost 20,000 yards and over 100 touchdowns in his career, with three straight seasons over 20 or more touchdowns.
At the same time he’s only posted one season with a winning record, has never led the league in any passing category, and his interception rate is starting to pivot hard in the wrong direction. He’s also worn out his welcome twice, to varying degrees of personal blame, and is now on his fourth team in two years.
That’s the dichotomy of Mayfield, as he’s yet to live up to the billing of being the No. 1 pick but has the skills to still do so. If the Bucs get the guy who trends back toward being who he was during his first three years in Cleveland then they might be alright, especially since he’ll have some of the best weapons he’s ever had in his career. If Baker continues the downward trend he started last season bouncing between three teams, the season could be over before it has a chance to get started.