Confident Mayfield excited about fresh start with Buccaneers

·4 min read

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Baker Mayfield is excited to have an opportunity to try to win Tom Brady’s old job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft signed a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million in free agency and will compete with third-year pro Kyle Trask to become Brady’s successor on a team two seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl.

“Listen, I’m never going to be Tom Brady. There’s a reason he has won so many Super Bowls — he’s the greatest of all time, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to try and be Tom, I’m going to be me. That’s what’s gotten me to this point,” Mayfield said Monday.

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“We’re going to do it differently, but that’s what makes this league so special. Everybody puts their own touch on it. It’s an honor to follow up somebody like that,” the former Cleveland, Carolina and Los Angeles Rams quarterback added.

“The people that have played with him around here, I’m going to pick their brains as to the things he did. There’s no doubt about that. I’m excited."

Tampa Bay will be the third team Mayfield has played for since being traded from the Browns to the Panthers last July. He went 29-30 in four seasons in Cleveland, and was combined 2-8 as a starter while throwing for 2,163 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions with Carolina and Los Angeles in 2022.

Mayfield, who turns 28 next month, has thrown for 16,288 yards, 102 touchdowns and 64 interceptions over five seasons overall.

“It was important to me to be in a place that’s stable and knows how to win, knows how to do it properly,” the quarterback said of the decision to join the Bucs, who are retooling in the wake of Brady’s retirement.

“I’ve gotten to see different things from my journey that is not exactly how I drew it up. It’s helped along the way, especially in making a decision like this,” Mayfield added. “I want to go somewhere where we can win right away, and this is that place.”

Brady led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title three seasons ago and consecutive NFC South titles the past two years.

The offense was not nearly as efficient in 2022, when Brady threw for the third-most yards in the NFL, but Tampa Bay scored just 18.4 points per game after averaging more than 30 the previous two seasons.

Mayfield is looking forward to competing with Trask, who’s attempted just nine regular-season passes since being drafted in the second round in 2021, and working with a talented group of receivers that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage.

“Any time you get to play with playmakers like that, it obviously makes your job easier. They’re so experienced, and they’ve seen a lot as well, so I’m excited to get the opportunity to play with them,” Mayfield said.

He said he’s also excited about joining new offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who moved to Tampa Bay from Seattle after helping Geno Smith jumpstart his career, earn NFL Comeback of the Year honors and land a big contract this offseason.

“In my short term of knowing Dave so far, just realizing who he is, how he’s going to tailor the offense to his playmakers — to me, that speaks volumes. You find a lot of guys that want to just run their system without really trying to play to the attributes of their players, and that’s not Dave,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield’s best season was 2020, when the Browns went 11-5 and then won a playoff game. The fact he’s on his fourth team in the past year speaks to how quickly his career shifted in another direction.

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner remains confident in his ability.

“It’s not how I drew my career up, by any means. If I were to tell you how it would go based on the plan, I wouldn’t have said that I put on three different uniforms in the year 2022. But that’s how it happens,” Mayfield said. “I’ve grown a lot. I appreciate all the things that have happened throughout my journey, and it’s helped me get here today."

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Fred Goodall, The Associated Press