5 key players the Buccaneers can’t afford to let get away in free agency

There are a handful of Buccaneers set to hit free agency this offseason that the team simply can't afford to lose.

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Baker Mayfield, QB

Last offseason, Baker Mayfield took a huge gamble on himself by taking a small prove-it deal in Tampa Bay, and it paid off for both him and the Buccaneers. The Bucs were in a difficult cap situation and couldn't afford to swing for a top tier quarterback. Mayfield knew the value he could offer the Bucs and it was actually Mayfield and his camp that targeted Tampa Bay as their preferred destination.

In an appearance earlier this season on "The Season with Peter Schrager", Jason Licht said, "He was targeting us. Maybe more than we were targeting him. He saw this as a great opportunity for him."

Mayfield's contract with the Buccaneers was a one year deal for $4 million, which turned out to be one of the biggest free agency bargains in recent memory. 19 starting quarterbacks made at least $24 million last season, and Mayfield was being paid like a backup quarterback as the league's 37th highest paid at the position.

Baker massively outplayed his contract, throwing for over 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and just ten interceptions. He set career highs in completion percentage and passer rating. In addition to an impressive statistical season, he led the Buccaneers to the divisional round of the playoffs in a year where the team wasn't expected to contend. Most importantly, Mayfield gained the respect of his coaches and teammates and is one of the key leaders inside the Bucs' locker room.

He bet on himself and won, and he will cash in this offseason when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers give him a well-deserved, much larger contract to keep him in Tampa Bay in 2024.