To say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are being counted out by the national NFL media is to put it lightly. Based on the way they’re bring talked about, you’d think the Bucs were a semi-professional team that is being allowed the charity of playing in the league.
Ever since Tom Brady retired the Bucs have been pegged as candidate to tank this season for a top draft pick. Peter King listed Tampa Bay as the second-worst team in the league, second only to the Arizona Cardinals. Everywhere you look, the Bucs are being written off and counted out.
Despite this, everyone at One Buc Place believes the team will be competitive this season, and approached the offseason accordingly. Re-signing Jamel Dean and Lavonte David rather than letting two top free agents walk was a clear sign that the Bucs aren’t entertaining the idea of tanking. Another move that suggets the same was signing Baker Mayfield to compete for the starting quarterback job.
Everyone got off the same exact joke when the Bucs signed Mayfield, but the move could end up aging much better than anyone is giving it credit for.
Mayfield still needs to win the job, despite rumors that coaches have already made up their minds, and must beat out Kyle Trask in training camp. For some, the job has already been won by Mayfield and his future is looking brighter than some want to admit.
Sports Illustrated makes bold prediction about Baker Mayfield in 2023
Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr put together some bold predictions for this upcoming season — 100 of them, the be exact — and singled out Baker Mayfield for one of them.
Don’t get too excited, it’s not an endorsement of the Bucs potential as contenders or a rebuke to the national anti-Bucs narrative. However, Orr pushes back slightly on the idea that Mayfield will be a disaster in Tampa Bay and believes he’ll outplay expectations.
"The Buccaneers’ quarterback, who is helping to buoy the franchise during its post–Tom Brady half-tank, will have a solid campaign, certainly enough to vault him into a perpetual roster spot for however long he pleases. Will he be the Geno Smith surprise of the year? Probably not. But he will outplay the circumstances, as he has done fairly consistently throughout his career."- Sports Illustrated
That sort of feels like a backhanded compliment, as it’s essentially saying the Bucs won’t beat the tanking allegations and Mayfield will succeed despite his surroundings.
Let’s not bite the hand that feeds too hard, though, as even slightly positive things being said about the Buccaneers is a hard thing to come by these days. To be fair, the optics of the situation aren’t great and seem to be actively working against any sort of praise from experts. Going from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield is not exactly winning the lottery, but it’s terribly reductive — and ridiculous — to count the team out three months before the season even starts.
Speaking of the circumstances, the Bucs boast a roster of top NFL talent. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Vita Vea, Ryan Jensen, Devin White, Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Tristan Wirfs are all Pro Bowl caliber players and guys like Rachaad White, Ryan Neal, and Cade Otton all looking to breakout. Add in rookies like Calijah Kancey, Cody Mauch, and YaYa Diaby as guys who could be impact players in their first season and all of a sudden Tampa Bay isn’t in such a bad position.
It’s admittedly an uphill battle for the Bucs to be as competitive as they want to be this season, but they’re not as bad off as many are suggesting and Baker Mayfield could be the poster child for an upcoming revenge tour.