When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Baker Mayfield last March, almost every pundit and fan turned into a Twitter comedian and dropped the same lame joke trolling the move.
How hilarious that the Bucs are going from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield? What a clownshow.
Baker and the Bucs have seemingly gotten the last laugh, with Mayfield potentially chuckling all the way to the bank. With three games left in the season, Tampa Bay has a firm grip on first place in the NFC South and controls its destiny to host a playoff game in January.
Those same pundits who blasted the Bucs all offseason are suffering whiplash from the wild turnaround the team has pulled off, and it's something that might have charted a new course for the future in Tampa Bay.
One thing it everyone seemed to agreed upon was that the Bucs needed to tank this year to draft a successor for Tom Brady. It turns out, Jason Licht may have indeed found a No. 1 pick to play at quarterback, he just didn't need to draft him to get him in the locker room.
Report: Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers have 'mutual interest' in long-term deal
We've been dancing around it since March, with the speed of the music picking up in recent weeks, but it sounds like Baker is one step closer to getting a long-term deal to remain in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, mutual interest exists between Baker and the Bucs to keep things rolling beyond this season.
"Sources say there is mutual interest for Mayfield and the Bucs to run it back in 2024," Rapoport reported on Sunday. "There are potential issues to work through, however, withset to enter free agency having renewed leverage. But based on what the team has meant to him, and what the QB means to them, both parties want to do it again next year."
It's long seemed like the most likely scenario for the Bucs was to run things back with Baker in 2024 and see if he can repeat his success. The big question everyone is wondering is how long the Bucs would be willing to commit to Baker, something Rapoport indicates could be a long-term thing.
"The franchise tag is also available for the Buccaneers to use on, though the hope would be to work out a deal," Rapoport said. "Tampa Bay is now in the playoff mix, and it might have found the QB of the future in the process.
All of this is lining up for Baker to be the guy moving forward. Tampa Bay making the playoffs would take them out of the running to draft a top quarterback prospect, and the team could use a pick later on a developmental backup. Keeping Baker would also allow the team to use picks and resources to improve the roster around him, like re-signing Antoine Winfield Jr., Tristan Wirfs, and potentially Mike Evans.
There are obvious risks, but it increasingly seems like the upside in Baker being the franchise quarterback outweighs the potential risk. Quite the turnaround from where things were almost a year ago, but the future for Baker and the Bucs has never looked brighter.