Among the many massive questions hanging over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, the biggest surrounds Baker Mayfield. He was signed to succeed Tom Brady as the team's starter but that's where the narratives spilt off in their own directions.
Nobody is expecting Baker to be a 1-to-1 replacement for Brady, but there is an expectation that he can help keep the team competitive as is transitions into a new era. It could be that pieces are being put in place for Baker to be the quarterback who not only guides the Bucs through this transitional period, but is the guy leading the charge for the next handful of years.
A lot needs to happen before that's a serious conversation, but the larger strategy behind the front office's decision to sign Baker in free agency is starting to become clear.
Former Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman visited Buccaneers minicamp last month and has reported back praise for Baker and an interesting potential path for the future.
Ex-NFL GM praises Baker Mayfield, hints at long-term contract
Spielman praised Baker's fit with the Buccaneers, noting that there's a chip on his shoulder as he prepares for a season in which he wants to prove his doubters wrong.
"There's no question about the chip on his shoulder," Spielman said. "If you look over the last couple of years, it's been disappointing but before that he was almost living up to the billing of being the No. 1 overall pick. He got Cleveland into the playoffs, then got injured and he's hot a few road bumps along the way."
It's more than just a chip on Baker's shoulder, it speaks for the entire team. All offseason long the Buccaneers have been cast aside as afterthoughts, from being pegged as candidates to tank to being dubbed the second-worst team in the NFL.
Spielman goes a step further and notes that Baker isn't coming to Tampa Bay for a one-year revenge tour, he potentially wants to finish his career in pewter.
"He thought that [Tampa Bay] was not only the best opportunity for him now, but for the future. He's looking for a place where he can hopefully play well and finish out his career," Spielman said. "He's really out to prove he's the Baker Mayfield that was taken with the first overall pick."
There's so much to love about that, with the new twist being Baker seeing the Bucs as a potential home for the rest of his career. He's already played with three different teams, and a fifth move might not be something he's interested in.
Zooming in on this specific season, every indication we've been getting out of Bucs camp is that this is an entirely different version of Baker than what we've seen in the past. Saying that in the offseason and backing it up in the fall are two different things, but as much as the team is getting dumped on things are also lowkey lining up to go in a much better direction than expected.