Just how good is Bucs’ Baker Mayfield?

by Gary Shelton on January 25, 2024

in general

Mayfield is about to become wealthy./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

He is not as good as Patrick Mahomes. He is better than Sam Howell.

He is not as good as Lamar Jackson. He is better than Justin Fields.

He is not as good as Joe Burrow. He is better than Anthony Richardson.

It’s called the Baker game, and even after the season has died, it is still in vogue. The Bucs, or some other team, must decide how much to pay Baker Mayfield, and for

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how many years. Before they can do that, they need to figure out just how good he is and, more importantly, how good he will be in the future.

Make no mistake. Mayfield has earned himself a golden ticket. He’s about to be not only rich, but stinking rich. The question is whether he gets five Lotto wins a year or almost seven, and just how long his employers want to gamble on him being the real thing.

He is not as good as Josh Allen. He is better than Geno Smith.

He is not as good as C.J. Stroud. He is better than Will Levis.

He is not as good as Jalen Hurts. He is better than Desmond Ridder.

And so it goes. You can compare numbers and potential and resumes, but eventually, it comes down to this. Baker Mayfield is a pretty good quarterback in a league that requires great. He is not perfect. But he is not lousy, either.

So what do you pay him? $27 million a year, which is what Spotrac predicts. Maybe $36 million, which is what he gets if he’s franchised. 

You can make a case for Dak Prescott over Mayfield. Or for Jordan Love. Or for Tua Tagvailoa.. You can make a case for Mayfield over Zach Wilson. Or Bryce Young. Or Mac Jones. You can argue that there isn’t a lot of difference between Mayfield and Trevor Lawrence. Or Kenny Pickett. Or Daniel Jones.

In other words, Mayfield had a great year, but he remains a second-level quarterback. 

Granted, there is a great deal of sticker shock in play here. Quarterbacks make rock star wages.

If I am the Bucs, I look at Mayfield like this: He was better than expectations, and better than his paycheck this year. So I’m willing to give him a handsome raise to see if he can do more with his team’s shortcomings (the running game, the pass defense).

So do you pay more for a shorter contract? Or maybe a little less and gamble on him being a four-year bridge?

In my mind, the shorter the deal the better. If that means the Bucs have to overpay for a franchise tag so they aren’t beholding for years, I do it. If he an win another 10 games next season, you can negotiation long-term then.

After all, Mayfield is better than today.

But can he measure up to tomorrow?

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