Buccaneers could turn to a familiar face for Baker Mayfield to replace Dave Canales

If Tampa Bay wants to keep some continuity, there's one name out there that makes a lot of sense.
NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions
NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

It took less than a week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offseason to get flipped on its head. We knew there were important decisions to be made about Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans, with Antoine Winfield Jr also needing a new contract, in addition to other areas of the roster that need to be addressed.

One plot twist nobody saw coming was the Bucs needing a new offensive coordinator. Dave Canales vacated his role after one year, choosing to take the job as the next Carolina Panthers head coach after multiple interviews with the team over the last week.

It's a stunning ascension for Canales, who a year ago at this time was the quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks but is now being handed the keys to a locker room. After helping revive Baker Mayfield's career, a year after doing the same for Geno Smith, the expectation was that Canales would eventually get a head coaching job; not many saw it happening this quickly.

The Bucs now have another massively important decision to make this offseason. Everything seemed to hinge on Baker's growth this year, but now he'll be working with the eighth new coordinator of his career.

That could mean Tampa Bay turns to a familiar face to help make sure things don't spiral out of control.

Buccaneers could look to Alex Van Pelt as next offensive coordinator

In the immediate aftermath of Canales leaving for Carolina, names are already getting tossed out as potential replacements. The Bucs could look internally to try and keep some continuity, but Greg Auman tossed out an external option that might serve the same purpose.

Of the eight different coordinators Baker has worked with, Alex Van Pelt is the only one he's had more than one season with. The two worked together in Cleveland in 2020 and 2021, with Van Pelt helping coach Baker to the only other playoff win of his career. In fact, it was Van Pelt who took over play calling duties for head coach Kevin Stefanski in the AFC Wild Card win.

Baker's two years with Van Pelt produced over 6,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and the Browns first playoff win since the '90s. Baker's rookie year stands out as one of his best, and his year in Tampa was a career season, but he showed enough under Van Pelt in Cleveland to suggest a reunion might work out.

Van Pelt's prior connection to the Bucs is notable, but it was an entirely different regime in charge then. Mark Dominik didn't exactly usher in a great era for Bucs football, but Jason Licht knows how to find the right guys for the job.

His hiring of Canales is yet another feather in his cap, and it presents a situation where the Bucs could hit another home run.

Unlike this time last year, the Bucs are a far more desirable destination for coordinators. If Licht was able to pluck Canales -- w future head coach -- out of the small pile he had to choose from, imagine what he'll do now.

We'll have to see how the coordinator market settles, but Van Pelt is a name to keep an eye on.

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