Free agent quarterback options for Buccaneers if Baker Mayfield leaves

If the Bucs can't re-sign Baker Mayfield, what options are out there to replace him with?

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

A total nightmare scenario is slowly starting to play out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the heels of reviving his career and helping take Bucs on a trip to the NFC Divisional Round, Baker Mayfield wants to get paid.

It's his right to ask for top dollar, which seems to be what he's doing. For all that we heard about goodwill and mutual respect gained, Baker is holding the Bucs over a barrel. Conversely, Tampa Bay has always been careful with how much it spends, so the reported $20 million gap between the two sides may be on the front office.

Pessimism might be setting in against the growing anxiety over potentially losing Baker, but positive intent leads us to believe this is merely a feeling-out period. Baker won't shortchange himself on a deal he's earned, and the Bucs won't overpay for him until they have to.

The likeliest outcome is that Baker hits the open market and a third party establishes what his true market value is. As soon as the legal tampering period begins, though, other teams can enter the fray and start driving the price up.

If the nightmare scenario plays out where Baker leaves for another team, where could the Bucs looks in free agency to replace him?

Free agent quarterback options for Buccaneers

Here's a look at the list of free agents currently set to hit the open market next week:

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Russell Wilson
  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Gardner Minshew
  • Drew Lock
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Jameis Winston
  • Tyler Huntley
  • Joe Flacco
  • Joshua Dobbs
  • Carson Wentz
  • Sam Darnold
  • Blaine Gabbert
  • Teddy Bridgewater

That's not exactly a Murder's Row of quarterback options for the Bucs, which further emphasizes how critical it is for the team to re-sign Baker. A reunion with Winston seems unlikely, and if the Bucs aren't going to pay Mayfield, then Kirk Cousins is out of the question as well.

Russell Wilson is the best crutch to lean on in the immediate aftermath of losing Baker since he presents the most upside. Things were gnarly in Denver, but it's hard to believe that he's as completely washed as he seemed.

Beyond that, Wilson makes sense from a budget standpoint, as he's expected to take a near-league minimum deal since he has so much guaranteed money coming from the Broncos. He essentially can't double his money and add a new deal on top of what's been guaranteed so he doesn't have the incentive to create a bidding war.

One other emergency option not listed here is trading for Justin Fields. It'll eventually get as pricey -- if not more -- than the Baker situation but he could be a Get Out Of Jail Free card to play. The consensus on him seems to be while he's disappointed tremendously in Chicago, he hasn't been given a fair shake to fully tap into his potential.

It sounds like the max value he'd command in a trade is a Day 2 pick, but he could be as valuable long-term as drafting a guy there. He has two years of team control left before needing to pay him big money, which also lines up with where the Bucs are at.

Essentially, Tampa Bay needs to find a way to re-sign Baker. There are ways out of the jungle, but it's much tricker and more dangerous than if they simply strained a bit pay him closer to what he's asking for.

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