Report: Buccaneers and Baker Mayfield are 'very far apart' in contract talks

It's starting to look dicey that the Bucs will be able to get something done with Baker Mayfield before he hits free agency.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have addressed two major needs, re-signing Mike Evans and tagging Antoine Winfield Jr., there's still a rather important outstanding task.

Baker Mayfield is set to hit free agency in less than a week, and already there's reportedly a line of teams ready to try and steal him away from Tampa Bay. Atlanta, Minnesota, and New England have all been named as potential landing spots for Baker if he hits the market, and time is starting to run out on the BUcs being able to stop that from happening.

Mike Evans was reportedly set to test free agency before agreeing to a two-year deal with the Bucs on Monday. All along he seemed to be the biggest threat to hit the market while Baker felt much closer to a sure-thing but those situations have flipped.

While Evans is back and under contract, Mayfield continues to trend toward testing free agency at an alarmingly concerning rate.

Baker Mayfield and Buccaneers are 'very far apart' in contract talks

According to Buccaneers insider Scott Reynolds, Mayfield and the team have a rather significant gap to close if a deal is going to be reached before free agency begins.

"Pewter Report has spoken with multiple sources recently and while there has been some progress since talks began in earnest at the NFL Scouting Combine last week, the Bucs and Mayfield’s camp were very far apart to begin with," Reynolds reported. "How far? Nearly $20 million apart."

Oh boy.

It's one thing if the Bucs and Baker weren't seeing eye-to-eye on contract value but $20 million is a pretty massive gap to try and close. The good news is that the free agency tampering period doesn't begin until Monday and contracts with other teams can't be finalized until Wednesday.

There's one major factor at play that wasn't present in either of the other two situations the Buccaneers dealt with. Both Evans and Winfield were the top players at their position, and each would have likely set the market for everyone else. Baker is not the top quarterback option in free agency, and he's likely waiting to see what happens with Kirk Cousins before he decides on fair value for his services.

It's a situation that feels almost identical to the one we were bracing for with Evans. Tampa Bay had one number in mind while Evans' camp had another and it was looking like a third party would be needed to establish fair value. That could be where we're headed with Mayfield, as he's clearly not going to settle for less to come back if he can potentially get more on the market.

Baker testing free agency doesn't mean he's going to leave. It simply means the market will have established a price that the Bucs need to meet rather than arbitrarily coming up with one. It's a bit disappointing that Baker seems to be playing hardball -- or that the Bucs are lowballing him -- considering how positive the relationship has been since the start.

All signs still point toward Baker returning, but the ride to get there is going to be bumpier than expected.

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