Tampa Bay Bucs may be targeting Baker Mayfield as next quarterback post-Tom Brady

Compilation of Baker Mayfield from Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new free agent on their minds, according to a report. It is none other than Baker Mayfield.

According to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, when free agency begins, the Bucs will target Mayfield to fill their quarterback needs, as well as bring in a veteran to compete for the job with Kyle Trask.

Mayfield played for both the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams last seen, ultimately going 2-8 as a starter.

He spent four years with the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018. The quarterback's time with the Browns included fewer memorable moments than distracting ones as he couldn’t end the team’s long search for a franchise QB.

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Baker Mayfield on the video board selected by the Cleveland Browns with the First Overall pick in the First Round of the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The stint was full of highs and lows, coaching changes, too much drama, and not nearly enough wins. Former Browns general manager John Dorsey was enamored with Mayfield’s talent and swayed by his swagger, choosing the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma first despite other options, including Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.

Mayfield began his rookie season as Tyrod Taylor’s backup before coming off the bench in Week 3 and rallying the Browns to their first win in 635 days, a 21-17 victory over the New York Jets on national TV.

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Mayfield wound up passing for 3,725 yards and throwing 27 touchdown passes as a rookie, breaking the NFL record for a first-year quarterback. For the first time in years, there was genuine hope for a floundering franchise that has had 32 starting QBs since 1999.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during an OTA practice on May 30, 2018 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2018 Diamond Images/Getty Images)

However, Mayfield’s second season was a major setback. He threw nearly as many interceptions (21) as touchdowns (22) and seemed to be on a different page of the playbook than star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland went 6-10 and fired coach Freddie Kitchens.

Mayfield also regularly squared off with commentators criticizing his play and sparred with local reporters. His immaturity showed particularly on social media, where he often posted rebukes to detractors.

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The 2020 season signaled a turnaround as Mayfield led the Browns back to relevance with their first postseason appearance since 2003. He thrived in first-year coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense, throwing 20 TD passes and just three interceptions in his last 12 games.

Mayfield directed a playoff win — the Browns’ first since 1994 — over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 10, 2021, and came within minutes of getting Cleveland to the AFC Championship a week later before losing at Kansas City.

Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

The resurgence triggered Super Bowl predictions for the Browns in the 2021-22 season and speculation they would sign Mayfield to a long-term contract.

Neither came close to happening.

After dropping the hyped season opener to the Chiefs, the game’s outcome decided when Mayfield threw a late interception, he suffered a torn left shoulder labrum the following week while trying to make a tackle.

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The injury worsened when he was sacked by Arizona’s J.J. Watt a few weeks later, and Mayfield never found his rhythm the rest of the season. Beckham forced his way off the roster and the Browns stumbled to an 8-9 finish and missed the playoffs.

Mayfield also raised eyebrows by publicly questioning Stefanski’s play-calling.

Mayfield sat out the finale and had surgery soon after. Browns general manager Andrew Berry said he expected Mayfield to bounce back as the team’s starter in 2022, but everything changed with the pursuit of Deshaun Watson.

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He was traded to Carolina in July 2022. The Browns continued paying $10.5 million of Mayfield’s $18.8 million contract for the following season, according to the Associated Press. 

The Panthers paid $4.8 million and Mayfield will take a $3.5 million pay cut. Both coincidentally met for the season opener in Charlotte. The Browns ended up winning their first opener since 2004, 26-24.

Baker Mayfield #6 of the Carolina Panthers runs for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Cleveland won 26-24. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In December 2022, the Panthers waived the struggling quarterback. He was 1-5 as Carolina's starting quarterback completed just 57.8% of his passes, having six touchdowns and six interceptions. He also struggled with tipped passes at the line of scrimmage.

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Within a day, the Rams claimed Mayfield. Now, he entered the free agency with many sports reporters saying the Buccaneers have expressed interest in bringing him to Tampa Bay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report