ESPN boldly predicts Buccaneers will trade for a new QB to replace Baker Mayfield

Well then.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

It seems like the season only just ended, but already we're knocking on the door of the offseason. With the NFL Combine getting underway and free agency set to open in a few weeks, the clock is ticking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers figuring out the best path forward with all that the teams needs to get accomplished.

There's no secret what the Bucs must do, it's a matter of how the team will re-sign Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans rather than if they'll be able to pull it off. Evans is the biggest question mark but despite the rumors, it still feels like the best fit is for him to return to Tampa Bay.

Evans isn't the only Buccaneers free agent starting to gain some popularity in the rumor mill. There are more ways that Baker is back in Tampa Bay than ways he gets away, but that hasn't stopped folks from trying to frame his situation as one in which he plays somewhere else next year.

Not all of the predictions are tinged with an anti-Bucs slant, and ESPN tossed out a doozy.

Buccaneers trade for Justin Fields in ESPN's bold offseason predictions

ESPN's Aaron Schatz put together bold predictions for each team and truly went for broke with some of them. When it comes to the Buccaneers, Schatz thinks the Bucs should trade for Justin Fields to replace Baker Mayfield.

"Instead, what if the Buccaneers went with the player who still has the higher ceiling but also the higher floor? Trade for Fields and see if you can put him in a situation to succeed, just as you did with Mayfield last season. If you can unlock the talent, there's so much promise for the future. If you can't unlock the talent, well, you were probably going to need to get a new quarterback after a couple of years of Mayfield anyway," Schatz wrote.

This is a little ridiculous on a few levels, but it's also a perfectly bold prediction. Fields was linked to the Bucs last offseason when the Chicago Bears were in the same exact position trying to determine whether or not to use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback.

Everyone is in a different place, though. Chicago needs to offload Fields more so than last year but the Bucs actually figured out their post-Tom Brady quarterback situation thanks to Baker. All signs point toward the two sides figuring out a long-term deal, and the interest in continuing the relationship is mutual.

It would also go against everything Jason Licht has worked to set in place. He cultivated a relationship with Baker, who became a locker room leader, and isn't one to bail on a quarterback without truly squeezing the lemon. Just look at how long the Bucs held out waiting for Jamies Winston to figure it out.

Trading for Fields is a fun idea to try out in Madden, but the logistics are hard to make sense of in reality. Fields will cost more than Baker would and is far less proven as a starter. That's not to say he won't tap into whatever the Bears seem unable or unwilling to develop, but the familiarity with Baker makes more sense for where the Bucs are at right now.

More Tampa Bay Buccaneers news and rumors