While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't be playing in the Super Bowl this year, just how close they got is something that NFL fans and media can't stop talking about. A team that was expected to tank for a top draft pick made it to the NFC Divisional Round, and a lot of that has to do with who their quarterback was.
Baker Mayfield was trolled when he signed with the Bucs back in March, but he ended up getting the last laugh. For all the lame jokes that were made about how Tampa Bay went from Brady to Baker, the Bucs ended up taking steps forward and laying a foundation for a pretty solid future.
Now comes the part where the Bucs lock key pieces in, and that start with re-signing Baker.
He revived his career, setting new career highs in almost every major passing category and firmly establishing himself as the leader of the Bucs locker room. His price tag went way up from the $8.5M, but it seems Baker is more concerned with staying in Tampa Bay than anything else.
Baker Mayfield says Bucs have 'a leg up over everybody' to re-sign him
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport spoke with Baker who told him the Bucs are the leaders in the clubhouse to re-sign him this offseason.
"To me, the most important thing he said was the Bucs kind of have a leg up on everyone," Rapoport reported. "Mayfield was also pretty strong in saying he wants Mike Evans back."
It's nothing we haven't heard already, including Rapoport mentioning that Baker wants Mike Evans back in Tampa Bay with him, but the fact we keep hearing it over and over again -- now at a national level -- is very notable.
As much as Baker is telegraphing that he wants to remain in Tampa Bay, money will probably end up being a factor. He's going to get paid handsomely for the season he had, but the mutual respect the two sides have might mean the bidding war stays within reason.
It also sounds like the Bucs will have to fumble the bag pretty significantly for Baker to test the market.
As Rapoport points out, the franchise tag deadline is the first big mile marker in negotations with Baker. Logic suggests the Bucs could tag him and see if he repeats what he did this year before giving him a long term deal. Everything we've heard about the relationship between Baker and Bucs management, though, suggests the two sides will try to figure out a deal now rather than later.
Either way, the Bucs are in the driver's seat when it comes to signing Baker. We already knew this was the case, but the fact that he keeps hammering everyone who will listen over the head with how much he wants to be back means it's only a matter of time before he is.