Report: Buccaneers are in danger of losing Baker Mayfield to NFC South rival

If the Buccaneers drag their feet re-signing Baker Mayfield, another team is reportedly 'very interested' in stealing him away.

Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL Rumors
Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL Rumors / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

As the calendar shifts from February to March, the start of NFL free agency continues to get closer. With that comes growing anxiety over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers figuring out a way to bring back key free agents set to hit the market.

With an estimated $43.9 million in cap space following the release of outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, the Bucs are financially set up to come to agreements with Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield, and Antoine Winfield on long-term deals. The clock, however, is ticking.

In the days leading up to the start of free agency, numerous teams have started showing increased interest in the Buccaneers' trio of stars. Most of the attention has been focused on Evans and whether a team like the Chiefs, Jets, or Texans can swoop in and pry him away from Tampa Bay.

Things with Baker have seemed much more relaxed, but that won't remain the case for much longer.

NFC South rival is 'very interested' in stealing Baker Mayfield away from Buccaners

Long-time NFL Draft insider Tony Pauline reported that Atlanta is interested in pursuing Mayfield this offseason as the Falcons' potential starting quarterback for 2024.

"Of those other suitors for Mayfield, I can confirm one is the Atlanta Falcons, who I mentioned several weeks ago as a possibility," Pauline reported. "The Falcons have been linked to Justin Fields, and if a trade is not completed with the Chicago Bears soon after the combine, I expect Mayfield to be at the top of their wish list."

Oh boy.

Signing Mayfield after failing to trade for Fields would make plenty of sense for the Falcons. Last season, Atlanta opted for 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder as the team's starter, who yielded mixed results. Starting in 13 games, Ridder compiled a 6-7 record while throwing for 2,836 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and an 83.4 passer rating on 64.2% completion.

Similar to Tampa Bay, Atlanta will have plenty of cap space to use to attract players in free agency, estimated at $36.8 million, per Sportrac. In addition, rookie standout running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London, and tight end Kyle Pitts make up a solid receiving threat for the Falcons next quarterback, who are all on team-friendly deals.

With that said, Mayfield is set to have just as, if not a better-receiving core in Tampa Bay, with wide receivers Chris Godwin and Trey Palmer, dual-threat running back Rachaad White, and tight end Cade Otten all returning in 2024. The true tipping point will be the decision of Evans, as the Buccaneers' decision to resign the ten-year veteran may single-handily dictate Mayfield's decision in free agency.

All signs continue to point toward Baker returning to the Bucs, despite this noise. It's a mutual feeling, one that has been sowing all season, and stuff like this might be a last minute attempt to drive up the price before a deal finally gets done.

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